Nami Modern Korean Steakhouse

Dig into new takes on classic Korean dishes at this Louisville, Kentucky, spot from James Beard Award nominee and “Top Chef” alum Edward Lee. 

Plate of Korean pork ribs at NAMI Modern Korean Steakhouse in Louisville, Kentucky (photo by Sara Babcock)

Most American diners are less familiar with Korean food than they are with the cuisines of other Asian countries, but that is beginning to change thanks to chefs like Edward Lee, a nine-time James Beard Award nominee, whose restaurant, Nami, was named one of the best new restaurants in America by Esquire magazine in late 2023.

Nami, which means “I am beautiful” in Korean, opened in Louisville, Kentucky’s Butchertown neighborhood that same year, and its menu features Lee’s modern take on classic Korean dishes. A few recipes, such as the marinades for Korean barbecue, have been passed down through Lee’s family, while others have been adapted from classic dishes and given updated, gastronomic twists by Lee and the restaurants’ other chefs.

Many dishes are handmade daily, including the restaurant’s most popular menu offering: spicy tuna tartar. The Korean BBQ dishes such as wagyu beef ribeye, kalbi and ga-ji are marinated for 24 hours, and diners get the option of cooking it themselves at a traditional table grill or having the staff prepare it in the kitchen. This is all part of Lee’s mission to modernize classic Korean cuisine.

Other menu options include the crispy-skin snapper and a variety of bibimbap rice bowls. Pair dinner with a drink from the expansive wine list that covers more than 40 varieties, and finish off the dining experience with a serving of ginger shaved ice or taiyaki puff pastry. After dinner, the karaoke room opens so patrons can enjoy a cocktail while belting out their favorite tune. 

Lee is not new to the Louisville restaurant scene, having taken over the fine-dining restaurant 610 Magnolia in 2002. He also appeared on season 9 of “Top Chef” and has authored several cookbooks, including Smoke & Pickles, Bourbon Land and Buttermilk Graffiti, so people can try his recipes at home. 835 E. Main St., Louisville, Kentucky 40206, 502/690-2067,