I’m not sure there’s a topic more polarizing than pizza, because everyone has an opinion on it and everyone’s opinion is right. I mean, we are all qualified to judge pizza—whether you judge it based on childhood memories (valid!), type of crust (thin! tossed! deep dish!), or style (coal-fired, Neapolitan, Detroit, Tavern, Minnesotan). So when one of the nation’s premier experts on spice decided to create a pizza place using freshly-baked naan in gleaming copper Tandoor ovens, I was intrigued.
First, a word of caution: Don’t call it “naan pizza.” At least not out loud, because it sounds like you’re saying “non-pizza,” and who wants to go to a non-pizza place?
Pizza Karma is a great name for the restaurant, and, frankly, maybe it’s a good name for the style of pizza, too. Karma is a word with origins in Buddhism, meaning your destiny or your fate. Karma dictates the ethos of the restaurant—using only compostable plates and flatware, high-tech hand-wash machines that limit water use, and fancy tap-beer technology that fills from the bottom for zero wasted beer (obviously I’m in favor of that).
A hallmark of Indian cooking, naan is a soft, fluffy, leavened flatbread. It’s perfect for soaking up curry and makes for a solid pizza crust, too. Pizza Karma has three gorgeous tandoor ovens as the centerpiece of this Eden Prairie counter-service, strip-mall first of what the owners hope will be many locations. Beautiful and functional.
The naan crusts (plain, garlic, even gluten-free) are freshly fired, then sauced and topped with vegetables, meats, or cheeses, and quickly baked. You may have Raghavan Iyer’s seminal cookbook 660 Curries on your shelf. Or maybe you remember his Indian restaurant OM (which probably opened 10 years before we were ready for it, from a culinary perspective). Iyer is one of the owners, and you can taste his mastery of spice in the bold habanero burn of the North African harissa sauce, as well as in the curry-spiced coconut milk. Choose your own adventure, or order their signature pizzas.
My favorites were the shrimp, with fresh curry leaves and coconut, and the seared potato-slice pizza, with veggies roasted in the tandoor oven. Cool starters, too: the cayenne-dusted, crispy okra fries with black salt are quite addictive, as is a creamy avocado dip elevated with a bright pop of fresh pomegranates.
I jokingly asked on Twitter about pizza on naan:
Is a topped piece of naan “pizza,” or is it non-pizza?
— DeRusha Eats (@DeRushaEats) February 6, 2019
Chef Iyer responded:
If flour, water, and a leavening agent makes it pizza why doesn’t a naan make it one? Besides, this kind of open fire cooking for breads is very global.
— Raghavan Iyer (@660Curries) February 6, 2019
There’s a deeper “meaning of pizza” question here that I’m not sure I’ve quite worked out. We’ve called a topped, baked tostada “Mexican pizza.” I suppose a baked bagel dough could be a “bagel pizza.” And, sadly, I’ve eaten a few “cauliflower pizzas” in my day. Pizza Karma tastes good. If I lived nearby, it would easily be in my rotation of fast-casual spots to take the family. Good people, good food. That’s good karma.
8451 Joiner Way, Eden Prairie