The country’s first tandoor clay-oven pizzeria is the newest addition to the Twin Cities’ increasingly global suburban strip mall foodscape, and it comes courtesy of the nationally renowned chef and cookbook author Raghavan Iyer.
Pizza Karma opens Monday, Dec. 17 in a former oil change station in Eden Prairie. (8451 Joiner Way, Eden Prairie, 952-467-6100, pizzakarma.com).
Iyer, a culinary instructor and author of several books on Indian cuisine, is fusing a food familiar to most Midwestern palates with flavors and ingredients far beyond the usual oregano and Parmesan.
“My goal was, a) everybody loves bread that is freshly baked, and b), everybody knows pizza,” Iyer said. “I wanted to bring in the global nature of what we do into this.”
There’s clarified butter, made from water buffalo milk, and fenugreek in the tomato sauce. A creamy coconut sauce with curry leaves that’s like a vegan Alfredo. North African harissa sauce speckled with habañero chile, cardamom-scented lamb meatballs, chile-rubbed pulled pork, and mango powder each make appearances on the short menu featuring six signature pizzas.
The crust is naan, a baking soda-leavened bread cooked at 825 degrees in clay drums that would singe the hair off your arm.
A short list of starters include potato cakes stuffed with spinach greens and cayenne-dusted okra fries. But the centerpiece of Iyer’s menu, the pizza, tributes the live-fire cooking found in many regions around the world, whether in the Middle East, South America or Southeast Asia. “This is something that is not particular to one country,” Iyer said. “Every culture has a different name for it.”
Iyer infused the restaurant with an effort to give back. A portion of restaurant proceeds will go to charity. All the serveware is compostable, and in an effort to reduce waste, the beers are filled via magnetic device through the bottom of the cup. (An automatic hand-washing station is almost as exciting as the restaurant’s three eye-catching tandoor ovens.)
Iyer 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.” He previously designed the menu at Minneapolis’ OM Restaurant in 2009.
He’d like to see Pizza Karma expand, first in the Twin Cities and then beyond.
“It’s really looking at the pizza world and turning it upside down,” he said.
He’s quick to point out that Pizza Karma is not an Indian pizzeria.
“They look at you and they want to pigeonhole you into one particular thing,” he said. “People always say because I look Indian, the only thing I can do is Indian. I kept saying that’s not true. What I really do is I showcase flavor. I showcase spices, herbs that are used in combination, and techniques that bring out those flavors from all over the world.”