"There's only two things I can't stand about this world: people who are intolerant of other people's cultures ... and the Dutch." That line, uttered by Michael Caine in Austin Powers in Goldmember, was one I parroted – in jest, of course – to my dining comrade during a visit to Elize, a restaurant run by restaurateur and Dutch national Michelle Lagerweij. Oh, come now, amid all the weltschmerz and global angst, there's nothing wrong with a little levity – especially at the expense of the Dutch. [blink] [blink] Still kidding!
Lagerweij, who took over the Rusty Spoon space, gave the airy downtown dining room a proper West Elm-ing before bringing on chef Leon Mazairac, whose appearances on a TV show called BinnensteBuiten have made him a bit of a celebrity chef in the Netherlands. He's even got his own cooking motto – "complexity through simplicity" – which is, like, so simple and, yet, so complex, much like the "12 Floridan vegetables salad" ($11/$22). I actually counted more than a dozen vegetables – everything from romanesco to watermelon radishes to peas to brussels sprouts – dressed with fennel and mustard seeds, drizzled with a cauli cream, layered with creamy Dutch yogurt, and splashed with an oxtail vinaigrette. Complex, right?
Even Elize's deviled eggs ($6/$12), marinated in shoyu and adorned with makrut lime, jalapeño, puffed rice and caviar, take on an elaborate aspect. Asked what kind of caviar, our server simply stated, "It's from Kentucky," so, yeah, paddlefish eggs. Regardless, these "shoyu tamago" were devilishly good, and even better when chased with $2 Moondancer oysters from Maine (not Prince Edward Island, as we were told).
The tuna upside-down pizza ($11/$22), another intriguing choice from the "cold creations" section of the menu, is neither pizza nor upside down. It was a bit fishy-tasting, this puck of cubed tuna topped with oyster mayo, and not pleasantly so. The "pizza" amounts to a thin phyllo pastry resting atop the tuna. "Elize" is emblazoned onto the circular wafer in a dusting of dill, which is either a nice touch or horribly gauche. (Elize, in case you're wondering, is the name of Lagerweij's mother.)
"Blimey! I thought I smelled cabbage." That's another great line from Goldmember, and one not entirely not germane to our meal. Cabbage, you see, was, the crunchy cushion on which a couple of beefy cheeks ($11/$22) sat, made all the more luscious by a jus of molasses and a mashed potato mousseline. That mousseline, resting in a pool of brown butter, also accompanies roasted Pacific white shrimp ($11/$22). Honestly, the shrimp are quite remarkable on their own, but I'm not one to say no to brown butter. More not-so-local seafood: sublimely seared, skin-on North Atlantic cod ($11) served with saffron orzo and crunched with fennel. Absolutely glorious.
These last three dishes alone should cement Mazairac's status as one of the city's best new chefs, because he is. It's a conclusion we came to as we sipped on rum-prosecco Old Cubans ($11) and nibbled on a fine slab of Dutch apple pie ($8) with vanilla bean ice cream.
BTW: The two prices listed alongside every dish on the menu (dessert excluded) reflect the two portions Elize offers. Personally, I'd take full advantage of the smaller, tapas-sized servings to bring greater variety to your table. And if you want the larger portion but are loath to pay the higher price, well, you can always go Dutch.
– This story appears in the March 18, 2020, print issue of Orlando Weekly. Stay on top of Central Florida news and views with our weekly newsletters.