Restaurants / Openings

Houston’s Newest Steakhouse is a Korean Game Changer in The Heights — Karne Cooks Its Steaks Tableside and is Full of Surprises

Korean With a Houston Twist

BY // 11.10.22
photography Jenn Duncan

If your knowledge of Korean cuisine doesn’t extend far past bulgogi and kimchi, you may wish to get schooled on the ingredients used in this centuries-old fare at Houston’s new Korean-inspired steakhouse dubbed Karne Korean Steakhouse, which just opened in The Heights.

Karne Korean Steakhouse comes from restauranteur Jason Cho, who brought Houston Dak and Bop (which translates to chicken and rice in Korean) and Tom n Toms Coffee in the Galleria. For his latest restaurant, Cho’s brought on Korean-born chef Yurum “K.P.” Nam as Karne’s executive chef and partner. The Culinary Institute of America grad is coming home in a sense.

Nam began his illustrious career in South Korea before he was lured to the United States, where his C.V. boasts time spent in New York City behind the range at The Modern, Gramercy Tavern, Jongro BBQ and his own restaurant Zusik in the West Village. Now Nam is making Houston his home base to cook with the flavors he grew up on in Korea.

What sets Karne apart from the dozens of high-end steakhouses in the Bayou City?

“I love the element of surprise, and I think when diners visit Karne, they think they’ll know what they’re walking into because they might have had Korean BBQ before,” Cho says. “But my ambition is to amaze them with the decor, the ambiance, the carefully crafted cocktail menu and finally, the food.

“The cuisine is Korean with a Houston twist. A lot of thought was put into this project— from the dishes to the plating to the array of cocktails and the decor.”

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Reputed to be Houston’s first Korean steakhouse, Chef Nam is bringing a modern twist to the traditional American concept blended with the flavors of his childhood. Particularly particular about the quality of the meat, Karne features prime-grade beef and American-raised and reserve-cut Japanese-imported Wagyu, each dry-aged in-house. Moreover, every steak on the menu is cooked-to-order tableside, seared on a grill inset on each table, and every cut is served with kimchi and pickles, a scallion salad, a duo of house salts and two dipping sauces.

With a bit of Korean influence threaded throughout the extensive menu, you’ll find dishes like hot stone bibimbap, a seasonal vegetable, mushroom, rice and beef mixture topped with a poached egg and dressed with gochujang sauce ($22), as well as a ribeye hot pot ($22) with thin slices of beef, cabbage, mushrooms and watercress cooked in a boiling bone broth and served with a side of soy.

Dishes at Karne Korean Steakhouse (Photo by Jenn Duncan)
Some of the Korean food served up at Karne include Clam Kal-Guskoo (top) and Bibimp Guksoon (below). (Photo by Jenn Duncan)

Seafood plates include jumbo tiger shrimp ($15) poached in a lemon herb fume with a wasabi Cho-gochujang sauce, seasonal oysters, osetra caviar and show-stopping cold and even hot seafood towers, all market price.

Flavor-packed apps range from Karne’s version of yellow tail crudo with scallops and shrimp bathed in a yuzu dressing ($25) to mussels steamed open in a rice wine broth with toasted milk bread to soak up with mussels liquor ($20). Did we mention Karne’s take on cured pork belly? It’s spiced with Korean bean paste accompanied with a micro green kimchi salad before it is toned down with an unctuous maple cream ($18).

Karne serves an array of cocktails as well as a list of 173 wines. Four private dining rooms are available by reservation, and if you’re up for a luxurious treat, you can try the multi-course chef’s tasting menu (by reservation only) in one of them.

You’ll find Karne Korean Steakhouse at 2805 White Oak Drive, Suite 100 in The Heights. It’s open Sundays through Thursdays from 5 pm to 10 pm and Fridays and Saturdays from 5 pm to 11 pm.

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