People have been asking Louisville’s Chef Edward Lee to open a Korean restaurant for years — and now that time has come.
On Tuesday, May 2 his first Korean steakhouse Nami will open in the lower level of Martin on Main, a new six-story apartment and retail complex in Butchertown.
Lee has opened and curated multiple restaurants throughout his career, but none have fully paid homage to his Korean heritage, and the reason why all comes down to timing. He thinks Korean food is having its moment right now like every cuisine does — remember the birria taco craze?
He said ingredients like kimchi and gochujang were very foreign 10 years ago, but Korean food has since gone mainstream — even commercial restaurants like TGI Fridays are slinging gochujang burgers.
While restaurant goers are more familiar with Korean foods, Lee, of course, won’t be doing them traditionally. The restaurant will dish out favorites like dumplings, pancakes, bibimbap, and BBQ, but they won’t look and feel like what you’ve seen before. “There’s going to be kimchi stew, which normally you’d use cabbage in, but we’re in Kentucky, so why not use collards,” Lee said.
The full menu is still forthcoming, but he did say there would be three different kinds of bibimbap.
But wait, there’s more. In addition to the full dining experience of Nami — which promises a private karaoke room, too — Lee is also opening a walk-up noodle shop in the back of the building called Neighbors Noodles that will be a more casual offering for area residents. “It’s basically a glorified kiosk, but will have some nice patio seating,” he said. The menu will be simple: dumplings, edamame, and rotating seasonal noodle dishes like ramen and black bean noodles.