Between its famous Texas brisket and outstanding steaks, Houston is a city known for its meat, but Karne Korean Steakhouse aims to offer an experience that will compete with the city’s best carnivorous eateries and offer an entirely new take on the traditional steakhouse.
An increasingly popular cuisine, Korean BBQ’s most identifiable feature is its cooking method, grilling meats right in front of you, making for an interactive and engaging experience unlike traditional restaurants.
Karne will elevate the traditional elements of Korean BBQ by serving only the most premium meats, with superior service and state-of-the-art tableside venting technology to ensure that diners don’t leave their upscale dining experience smelling like a barbeque.
From his lifetime of living in Houston and his first restaurant venture, Cho has connections to local ranchers, butchers and farmers which will enable the restaurant to source premium quality meat and produce with scheduled daily deliveries to minimize overstocking. With outstanding ingredients, they’ll need to rely less on marinades for flavor and impact, and can instead showcase some of Texas’ best-farmed products.
Customers order from a menu, picking their proteins in a style similar to ordering Mexican fajitas. Premium raw, sliced, marinated meats — ranging from beef and pork to lamb and seafood — arrive at the table along with flights of banchan: Small, flavorfully seasoned side dishes such as soybean sprouts, greens, and cucumber salads that allow for customization of the meal, the first of which will be complimentary. In keeping with the elevated theme, the banchan won’t be any less considered and will include options unusual for Houston, such as the melted cheese wheel phenomenon, raclette.
Both classic American and Mexican sides will also be offered to celebrate Houston’s unique culinary heritage, and while traditional Korean BBQ meats are either simply salted or marinated, Karne’s menu will also feature some smoked meats to respect the area’s tradition as well as show how beautifully Korean BBQ and Texan BBQ can harmonize. All this food will be complemented by a robust drinks menu starring soju and classic cocktails, beers, and a comprehensive list of wine pairings for the various meats.
That local Texas flavor will be merged with the superb service Kim has made a name for himself with in New York, where good food isn’t enough to stand out from the crowd. From his time in the industry and with similar concepts, he learned that while allowing customers to grill their own meats on their tables’ central grill is often one of the most identifiable parts of Korean BBQ, it doesn’t typically make for an outstanding dining experience, as they aren’t trained chefs.
Instead, the table’s servers will be expertly trained grill masters who will grill the meats to their customers’ preference, ensuring a perfectly cooked meal for every diner, while retaining the fun spectacle of seeing the food cooked in front of you. This will allow for a consistent quality of cooked meat, reducing the waste that may result in a customer overcooking or undercooking the meat and the negative experience that generally follows.
The servers will be close at hand at all times to assist with any other needs, and can also educate customers who are less familiar with the concept as they’re preparing an outstanding meal. Placing a strong emphasis on improving the diner’s experience will be at the forefront of the day-to-day operations, where training of the staff, hosts, assistant managers and the GM will be a fundamental pillar in ensuring consistency in all aspects of the restaurant’s operations.
Inside the 6,000 square foot space the two have found in the Heights will be a welcoming, approachable atmosphere akin to the one Cho created with his first food venture, elevated thanks to Kim’s sublime signature service standards he’ll bring from his NYC establishments. Anchored by a central bar, the dining area will be filled by intriguing tables with grills built into them, which servers use to cook the meal right in front of diners’ eyes.
A frequent issue in Korean BBQ restaurants is the lingering smell of cooking, which Karne will solve by outfitting each table with a venting system — unlike most Korean BBQ restaurants though, where the vent is above the table, Karne will use a powerful-yet-discreet Hoshin venting system, built under the table to reduce the amount of smoke in the air.
Floor plan for Karne Korean SteakhouseThe placement of the grill was also thoughtfully considered. Traditionally, grills are placed at the center of the table, however, after Kim’s extensive time within the industry, the grill will be positioned at the corner of the table. This new placement will allow the server to easily grill the meats for patrons, provide more surface area on the table for other dishes and reducing any liability in the process. It’s precisely the kind of subtle touch Kim has learned to implement which can make all the difference for customers.
Cho’s lifelong residency and intimate familiarity with Houston, paired with Kim’s experience in operating increasingly popular Korean BBQ concepts make them a dream team to redefine Houston Korean cuisine. Karne Korean Steakhouse promises to be unlike anything the city has seen.
From his years of experience in the industry, Kim will also bring a strong social media savvy, and plans to cross-promote his new Texan venture on his existing NYC eateries’ Facebook and Instagram accounts, giving Karne Korean Steakhouse incredible exposure from the start. The restaurant has also partnered with Mike Chen, a food-focused YouTuber with millions of followers across his accounts, like Strictly Dumpling and Beyond Science. Not only will Chen help market the new restaurant, but will also collaborate on the menu — one his legions of fans will be keen to try themselves.