WHO’S IN CHARGE Growing up on mainland China, Iverson Guo didn’t even know how to cook rice. Then he went to New York City and learned the ins and outs of making sushi from a highly regarded Japanese chef. He plied his knowledge in Franklin, Mass., and found himself doing a catering job for former New England Patriots center Dan Koppen.
The Pats befriended Guo, who says he spent one Super Bowl watching the game alongside Rob Gronkowski’s dad. So when Guo needed a name for his first restaurant in Westwood — which he opened 10 years ago — the players helped.
“They worked hard and played hard,” said Guo of his Super Bowl buddies. “And what goes around, comes around. So, they helped me to name it ‘Karma.’”
Then Guo had his own karma tested. When he opened his second restaurant in Andover about 2½ years ago, a local news outlet reported health code violations “related to kitchen maintenance and improper testing of sushi rice” in August of 2015.
Guo clamped down on training his Andover staff, and in less than a year, the town’s Board of Health gave Karma a clean bill of health.
A third Karma is under construction in Concord and is slated to open later this summer.
THE LOCALE Karma in Andover sits in the corner of a strip mall in the Shawsheen Plaza; its concrete façade contrasts its low-lit, snazzy, ’80’s-style interior. The lounge area shows sports on the TVs perched over the horseshoe bar.
The dining room is a gold and red motif. A back-lit marble accent decorates the red leather banquette. One side of the dining room is lined with booths. A seven-seat sushi bar at the back invites guests to get close to the action. There is also a private dining area.
A framed No. 7 New England football jersey with the name “Karma” hangs on the wall, as do other signed jerseys, which are displayed in the lounge.
Guo tells me 30 years ago the space was a Chinese restaurant. “Thirty years later, the karma comes back.”
Muzak with an occasional disco beat fills the room. Two women fawn over their espresso martinis and General Gau chicken.
ON THE MENU At lunch, there is an all-you-can-eat buffet featuring sushi rolls and hot dishes such as chicken teriyaki, spring rolls and more ($12 weekdays; $13 Saturdays; $20 Sundays). I opt for a lunch special, the sushi regular plate ($12), which comes with miso soup and a salad. The raw fish — salmon and tuna — is clean, fresh, and nicely presented.
On a dinner visit, my server, Lawrence, helps me navigate the extensive menu, which also includes Chinese and Korean plates. I go with the duck bao buns appetizer ($12), three soft, steamed pockets stuffed with crispy-skinned shredded duck, scallion, cucumber, and two sauces: hoisin and plum.
The scallop and shrimp in spicy garlic sauce ($15) comes to the table in a sizzling haze. The seafood impresses with its freshness, lightly charred vegetables, and bold garlic sauce.
“It’s good, right? You like it?” asks Lawrence. In a word, yes.
Karma, 209 North Main St. (Route 28), Andover. 978-809-3075; karmaandover.com
Naomi Kooker can be reached at email@example.com.