The Standard Grill was for many years a fairly, well, standard place. But it has been quietly transformed into one of the finest restaurants in the city because, with almost no fanfare, celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito has taken over the kitchen. That name should sound familiar: For a while there, DiSpirito was seemingly everywhere—he starred in several reality cooking shows, a radio show, and was even on Dancing with the Stars. Thankfully, his tarts are better than his tango, and the chef has become far less of a showboat, both outside and inside the kitchen. His food today makes high art of simple preparations, using only carefully sourced and fine ingredients. Foremost are his grilled skewer appetizers, called binchotan. DiSpirito uses a type of Japanese white oak charcoal that burns extremely hot to give sweet scallops, quail, mushrooms, or tuna the perfect amount of char and smoke. Every skewer is exquisite. And while this is supposed to be a place that appears devoted to grilled meats—the tufted leather booths, vaulted tile ceilings, and dark woods are classic steakhouse—it's the pastas that steal the show with their perfectly balanced sauces and lux toppings such as truffles or king crab meat. Reservations are easy to snag at the moment, but that could change if the restaurant gets better at trumpeting DiSpirito’s presence. Better book well in advance to be safe.

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