While sitting on the patio of Ulysses Voyage at the Farmer’s Market, I learned that most Greek restaurants in Los Angeles don’t serve traditional Greek food. Instead, they offer Middle Eastern food. At Ulysses Voyage, the owner’s mother, Voula, from Kalamatos, Greece created the menu. She flies to Los Angeles four times a year to visit her son, work with the kitchen staff and fine-tune some of her tried and true recipes.
Eight years ago, when the real estate firm Curuso Affiliated built The Grove next to the Farmer’s Market, they renovated the area where Ulysses Voyage sits. The patio looks out to various retail stores, while inside there is a warm and cozy fireplace for more intimate dining.
My dining adventure began when I ordered the Caviar Taramosalta spread. It’s a lightly pink salmon egg dip with lemon and garlic, then whipped with Kalamata olive oil. Momma Voula only uses Kalamata olive oil in her recipes. It’s served with whole wheat and plain pita bread. The pita is warm and soft with a slight crunch at the ends. I learned from the manager, that a traditional pita does not have a pocket to stuff spreads, instead it’s a flat bread that you scoop up some spread and fold or wrap it before taking a bite. Whole wheat has become a popular request in the health conscious Los Angeles culture, so they added it to the menu. Ulysses receives a daily supply of pita bread from a nearby bakery that is half-baked, then placed on a flat oven to warm up and finish cooking.
Another divine spread is the Saganaki “Ouzo Flamed.” It’s a cheese, similar to Irish cheddar that arrives at the table with a spectacular entrance. My server poured a little Ouzo on top and lit the cheese to create a vibrant fire. It’s extinguished with a squeeze of lemon and presented to the table. The Ouzo gives the cheese a slight licorice flavor and is hot, gooey and savory on pita bread.
Many Greek salads have romaine or iceberg lettuce as a base, at Ulysses, the Greek salad is bright in color and filled with fresh and organic produce from Tutti Fruitti farms. There is no lettuce, just Persian cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, green, red and yellow bell peppers and Kalamata olives dressed nicely with Kalamata olive oil, fresh sea salt, lemon, oregano and pepper. It’s topped with a sizable chunk of heavenly feta cheese.
Ulysses does not have a lamb-laden menu, instead there are many vegetarian, chicken and beef dishes. My favorite dish is the Moussaka. Peter’s mother, Voula layers the dish with ground chicken, grilled eggplant, grilled zucchini and a layer of potatoes. On top is an exquisite Béchamel sauce that is baked until the cheese bubbles with a caramelized light brown topping. It’s light and filled with pleasing flavors, not heavy and thick like many Middle Eastern restaurants. The ground chicken has just the right amount of spices and herbs to give it a zip, yet doesn’t overpower the luscious Béchamel sauce. One can order it with ground beef or a vegetarian version with tomatoes and feta cheese.
Recently added on the menu is a lamb burger with Greek fries and a small salad. The owner Panayiotis “Peter” couldn’t wait for Momma Voula’s next visit to the U.S., so he called her to get her lamb burger recipe. It’s scrumptious with a seasoned 8 oz. lamb patty, served on a grilled sesame bun with a slightly spicy feta spread and grilled onions on top. The Greek fries have a little bit of garlic and parsley to differentiate them from American fries. Peter explained that this burger is very popular, because lamb is a leaner and healthier red meat. His lamb does not have a strong, distinctive gamey taste or offensive smell. The first day Peter introduced his lamb burger on the menu, he sold 80 burgers by the end of the day. Women order as many lamb burgers as men.
Fully satisfied, I left my table and walked past a couple enjoying an octopus dish and something that looked like fries on their table. When I inquired, they said the dish was fried smelt. While squeezing a lemon over the smelt, they offered me to take a few. Never trying smelt before, I reached in and grabbed one. Not bad, in fact it was quite tasty.
Ulysses is a great place to dine before a movie or after a day of shopping for a delightful Greek meal. Who knows, maybe Momma Voula will be in town making one of her quarterly visits. 6333 West 3rd. Street #750, (323)939-9728.
via Ulysses Voyage.