After more than a decade, the patio at the Ulysses Voyage Greek restaurant, located on the outskirts of the Original Farmers Market next to the Grove, is still one of the best places to people-watch in the city. And this activity is made even better by the fact that you can do it while you eat flaming cheese, also known as saganaki, a traditional Greek dish that is typically just fried cheese in a pan. Just.
Part spectacle, part appetizer, the brick of cheese is brought out on a small cast-iron skillet. Then your server pours a shot of ouzo onto the cheese — traditionally halloumi, graviera or kasseri — and proceeds to light it on fire.
For the Record
May 5, 2:22 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said the Original Farmers Market is at the Grove. It is next to the Grove.
A couple of things you'll notice while this is happening: The person lighting your cheese on fire never pours the entire shot of alcohol onto the cheese (maybe somebody finishes the rest after leaving the table). And while it may look like your server is suffering actual burns, this is not what is happening. Instead, the flame is extinguished with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and your tableside magician walks away unscathed.
The fire creates a golden-brown crust, and the pool of ouzu surrounding the cheese is still bubbling away when it hits the table. The cheese itself is mild, but the burnt-off alcohol offers a nice, pungent vinegar flavor. Eat it while it's hot, so you can easily cut away gooey, melted squares of cheese to sandwich between pieces of warm pita bread. Just think of it as a melted cheese hug.
6333 W 3rd St #750, Los Angeles, (323) 939-9728, www.ulyssesvoyage.com.