Horses in Hollywood is the hottest restaurant in Los Angeles right now. Everyone in the food industry has been raving about it since it opened in October, and it received a glowing review from the L.A. Times at the beginning of the year. Celebrities and chefs alike have saddled up at the bar or sidled into the booths to get their hands on the food from Liz Johnson and Will Aghajanian. We decided we had to check it out for ourselves while in L.A., and are overjoyed to report that Horses is a restaurant that is absolutely worth the hype.
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The Horses venue is a historic Hollywood haunt (formerly called Ye Coach & Horses) where the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Jim Morrison, and Quentin Tarantino once ruled the roost. We love the way the team has juxtaposed old and new in the restaurant’s design, bringing in sunny yellow booths to freshen up the space. It’s a glamorous Hollywood setting, perfect for a night on the town. The restaurant is abuzz, from the busy kitchen, to the boisterous tables, to the hopeful diners spilling out the front door into the street. (Due to the extreme popularity, you’ll be hard-pressed to snag a reservation here before ten p.m.) The staff floats around the dining room dropping plates with smiles; the fast-paced environment is no match for their positive attitudes. Barry White and Tina Turner croon over the speakers – we always know it’s gonna be a good night when we’re dancing at our table.
Horses is a chef’s restaurant. Sure, you’re hobnobbing with Hollywood’s finest, and some of the guests in attendance are, naturally, dressed to the nines. But the menu is not designed for those on actor diets. This is tasty, well-cooked food, and you’re going to want to lick your plate clean. The chefs holding the reins are Liz Johnson and Will Aghajanian, formerly of Noma in Copenhagen, Freedman’s in L.A. and The Catbird Seat in Nashville. It’s clearly not their first rodeo, and after our first bites, we knew this would be a meal to remember. The open kitchen overlooks the dining room, so you can watch the chefs at work. We were pleased to a see a healthy balance of men and women in the kitchen.
Our meal kicked off with a bread and butter serving. Warm sourdough bread is served with perfectly tempered butter – soft, spreadable, and a plentiful portion. (Bonus points for the cute horse shape!) When the bread is this good, you know you’re in for a great meal. Then, we moved on to our second serving, a miniature sobrassada panino with the crusts cut off. This dish is so tasty – a little spicy, extremely buttery, with a touch of sweetness coming from the drizzle of honey. This is the type of salty food we want when those late night cravings hit.
Next up, came the smoked salmon lavash with caviar. This dish gives off a bagels and lox vibe, and reminded us of the signature smoked salmon pizza at Spago. The flavors are fresh, creamy, salty, and delicious, and we appreciated the crunch added by the flatbread. We also prefer caviar to trout roe, so dare we say Horses’ version is even better than Wolfgang’s original?
The avocado crostino is also a winner. The anchovies on top give it an excellent saltiness without being fishy at all. Horses’ take on a Caesar salad showcases endives which add some bitterness, but this is pleasantly balanced by the creamy dressing. There is acidity from the lemon zest and a nice crunch from breadcrumbs. The last of the appetizers we tried was the Boudin Basque, a rich blood sausage with a fried hen’s egg on top. Although this is on the heavier side for the starters, it was hard to hold ourselves back from finishing every bite of the dish.
A favorite of the night was the potato gnocchi with taleggio fondue and nutmeg. The little dumpling pillows felt like soft little clouds; they swam happily in the cheese sauce and fresh black truffles and melted on our tongues. What an incredible texture! The chefs also sent out an off-menu pasta called the “Herman,” named for the man who helped redesign the new restaurant. This dish is a spin on a vodka pasta, with saucy shells and Andouille sausage. Spicy, piping hot, and seriously addicting.
The Cornish game hen is one of the dishes we had heard the most people talk about leading up to our visit. It is really good, but, honestly, not as mind-blowing as the other dishes we tried. Especially since it’s such a big portion, if we went back we wouldn’t need to reorder this one. The hen is served on top of a warm dandelion panzanella (bread salad) – perhaps a tribute to Zuni Café? (Zuni’s version reigns supreme in our eyes.)
Finally, we tried the Horses cheeseburger. As self-proclaimed burger aficionados, we’d been really looking forward to this one – and, honestly, it exceeded our expectations. This is easily the best bistro-style burger we’ve had in the US. (Minetta Tavern, step aside.) It’s simple, only topped with cheddar cheese and onions (both caramelized and raw) – but these supporting acts are just there to shine the spotlight on the star of the show, the meat. The beef is perfectly cooked and well-seasoned, with just the right amount of salt. Even though we were stuffed at this point, we didn’t leave one single bite of the cheeseburger behind. It comes with a mountain of fries; these are tasty, but we could barely put a dent in them.
The desserts at Horses are just as strong as the savory courses, a rare feat for a restaurant. Anders adored the marzipan stracciatella ice cream with amarena cherry. The dark chocolate tart with milk sorbet is also delicious, and incredibly rich. But our all-time favorite was the Amaretto creme brûlée. This dish is so decadent that it’s absurd – but it works. Périgord black truffle hits you in the face when it lands on your table – they ain’t messing around, this baby is fully loaded! And then you crack the shell on that custard. Break through the shards of caramelized sugar to reveal the creamy pudding inside. The flavor is so rich and so pure, with the Amaretto giving it depth and complexity. We have already shortlisted this dessert for our best dishes of 2022.
On the drinks side, they serve classic cocktails with a twist. Anders had a dry martini that he said was the best he has ever tasted. I loved my daiquiri so much that I ordered a second; the cherry maraska balances out the lime wonderfully. The wine list is mostly classical, but with a few naturals on there to please all palates.
What a joyful and delicious evening at Horses. Rarely do we visit restaurants where every single dish is a hit, and the friendly service matches the high level of the food. We can’t recommend Horses enough – we already are looking forward to our return.
Have you been to Horses? Let us know your thoughts in a comment below.