Eden Prairie’s newest foray into the world of fusion cuisine has arrived. Pizza Karma, the newest project of Emmy Award-winning chef Raghavan Iyer, opens on Monday, Dec. 17, at its 8451 Joiner Way location.
Iyer created the fast-casual restaurant with a determination to bring global flavors to the southwest suburbs. The pizzas are all based on a naan crust, baked fresh daily in a tandoor oven, with plain, spiced and gluten-free options.
The idea of karma isn’t just in the name. Every dish and utensil in the restaurant is compostable — save for the beer cups, which are recyclable — and a portion of the profits will be donated to a local charity every month. Iyer hasn’t yet selected an organization, but he’s interested in causes benefiting education, women and children, and animals.
“I feel like giving back is so important,” Iyer said.
The concept of karma extends to the menu as well: Menu items will change seasonally to draw from the freshest locally sourced ingredients. “In the summertime, when we’re going to have access to some incredible vegetables and fruit,” Iyer said.
He emphasized the global nature of the menu over any specific cultural cuisine.
“They will want to think we are ‘Indian pizzas’,” but there’s no trace of curry powder in the menu, Iyer said. “We’re not an Indian restaurant … Being an immigrant myself, even though I’ve been here a bajillion years, I know what it’s like to have people pigeonhole you.”
Rather, the food will “showcase” flavors and spices from around the globe. Iyer took his time in constructing the menu, inviting focus groups with roots in Japan, China and India to help guide the process. The open-fire cooking and tandoor ovens struck a chord with the diners, Iyer said: “This kind of cooking is prevalent everywhere.”
A signature pizza ranges in price from $10 to 13, while the starters — which could easily pass for entrées themselves in size — are $8 to 11. A build-your-own option allows for endless variations of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free pizzas. One of four colorful sauces — red tomato-fenugreek, green mustard-spinach, orange habanero-harissa and white lime-coconut — create the base of a pizza, and wine or six tap beers are available to quench one’s thirst.
Though the food is rooted in traditional cooking methods, Pizza Karma is forging its own path in many ways. The restaurant’s space is a converted mechanic’s shop, with its garage doors converted to windows that let in plenty of natural light. An automated hand-washing station, located just inside the door, is both thoughtful and practical for a menu largely meant to be eaten with one’s fingers.
Iyer also hopes to buck industry trends like “chaotic” kitchens and stressed staff. He brought executive chef Jaime Sierra to Pizza Karma both for Sierra’s culinary talent and his ability to run a calm and efficient environment behind-the-scenes.
“I’ve always loved his style,” Iyer said of Sierra.
Iyer lived in Eden Prairie for 10 years before moving to Minneapolis, but he chose the familiar community to test the field. If the Eden Prairie location is successful, Iyer hopes to turn Pizza Karma into a local franchise, with an eye to student-heavy areas.
“This (restaurant) in Dinkytown is gangbusters,” Iyer said. He hope the familiarity of pizza as a concept will welcome diners who may not otherwise venture outside their comfort zone, and he’s not particularly concerned about picky eaters, since “kids these days are more sophisticated in terms of flavors.”
Pizza Karma opened Monday, Dec. 17. Information about the menu and hours can be found at https://pizzakarma.com.