Pizza, by way of India. Why hasn’t someone thought of this before?
Leave it the endlessly energetic Raghavan Iyer, the Mumbai-born, Minneapolis-based cookbook author and culinary instructor, to come up with the idea.
He’s the creative force behind Pizza Karma, which is opening in Eden Prairie and will feature pizzas baked in a clay-lined tandoor oven.
“This is about the global nature of pizza,” said Iyer. “Restaurants like Young Joni, with its wood-fired pizza oven, and Black Sheep, with its coal-burning oven, have shown us that it’s the medium of cooking that determines the pizza style. That’s what I’m focusing on here. Our medium is the clay-lined tandoor.”
Don’t expect a familiar pizza dough.
“We’ll be following the traditional way it’s done in India, using a baking powder crust,” said Iyer. “The crusts will be brushed with clarified butter imported from India, where it’s made with water buffalo milk. It has a grassy quality to it.”
The naan will be baked three-quarters of the way in two of three showy clay ovens (the third will be reserved for roasting meats and preparing appetizers), then once it’s sauced and topped it’ll be finished in a conventional pizza oven.
“That maintains the integrity of the crust,” said Iyer. “It keeps it light and crispy on the underside, and tender inside.”
The menu’s centerpiece will be a half-dozen specialty pizzas: shrimp that’s marinated in roasted lentils and spices and paired with a coconut milk-shallot sauce; locally raised, free-range chicken marinated in Greek yogurt, garlic and a blend of freshly ground spices; shredded pork simmered in a chile-cinnamon-vinegar-garlic paste.
There will also be a design-you-own option, and the menu will include a half-dozen appetizers and a few salads, from a seasonal market combination (“No off-season tomatoes here,” said Iyer) to roasted beets with chai-spiced candied pistachios and a ginger-raisin vinaigrette.
No desserts (“I figure that it’s all about pizza,” said Iyer), and beverages will include chicory-filtered coffee, chai, a mango lassi and small beer and wine rosters.
The restaurant, now under construction, is occupying a former oil change operation, and the building’s large garage doors will translate into plenty of sunlight. The showpiece — make that showpieces — are those three large terra cotta ovens.
“You’ll see them right when you walk into the restaurant” said Iyer. “They’re really a showstopper. When you go to Pizzeria Lola, and you see that gorgeous copper oven, that’s what draws you in. This is the same thing.”
Iyer (pictured, above, in a portrait by Bonnie Powell) is the author of “660 Curries,” “Betty Crocker’s Indian Home Cooking,” “Smashed, Mashed, Boiled and Baked,” “Indian Cooking Unfolded,” “The Turmeric Trail” and “Asian Flavors.”
It’s not Iyer’s first excursion into the local restaurant scene. In 2009, he created the impressive menu for the short-lived OM Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis (Pizza Karma’s executive chef is Jaime Sierra, an OM vet). In the late 1980s and early 1990s he had a hand in two Minneapolis restaurants, Cafe Mocha and Cafe Kebabi.
When it debuts this fall, Pizza Karma will be located just southwest of Eden Prairie Center, at 8451 Joiner Way.
“I think the Twin Cities is ready for something different,” said Iyer. “Everyone knows naan and tandoor foods, but no one has done pizza with it, at accessible prices. I pitched the idea to a couple of investors, and it has taken on a life of its own.”