Photograph by Aaron M. Conway / OMS

It’s been a tempestuous year for Alex Mchaikhi, known in the business for being pragmatic yet positive. After navigating multiple chef changes, he has re-branded the old Cumin into Ash American Fare. And amid that tumult, his smaller concept, M Wood Fired Oven, started to hit its stride, settling into a streamlined menu with flavors that don’t stray too far from the owner’s Mediterranean roots.

The smaller menu benefits from the extra attention. Wood-fired pizza is the Erie Avenue bistro’s main event, and Chef Brandon Evans smartly prioritizes the pie. The Neapolitan-style dough is ideally suited to the scorching oven temperatures, reaching its thin, crispy sweet spot while a thicker edge, or lip, keeps a subtle bubble. Try the zesty No. 9, also known as the Deconstructed Salsa, which turns traditional pizza sauce on its head with the addition of cilantro and tomatillos; or stick to the classic No. 1, a simple Margherita with basil leaves and healthy slabs of fresh mozzarella. Don’t be afraid to venture out and sample the nightly specials or cauliflower gratin, cooked in a single-serving cast iron crock. It’s hard to go wrong with wood, fire, and smoke. It’s elemental.

3514 Erie Ave., East Hyde Park, (513) 386-7783, m-woodfiredoven.com

Originally published in the March 2014 issue.

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