Happolati is the name of the new restaurant in the revered dining location at St. Olavs Plass 2 in Oslo, which formerly hosted the one-Michelin starred restaurant Ylajali. Defining the concept at Happolati is a challenge, but I’ve decided to call it Asian inspired gourmet in a magic wrapping. The wrapping is both the interior design of the place as much as the presentation of the food. I was amazed at how beautiful this new eatery has turned out. Not that the old venue of restaurant Ylajali wasn’t pretty with its Hamsun-esque look, but Happolati takes it to the next level. A magic level.
Just like Arakataka and Ylajali, Happolati is another restaurant by Nevzat Arikan, one of the most successful restaurateurs in Oslo. It seems he has a thing for names that are difficult to pronounce. People struggled enough as it was with Ylajali, and I’ve yet to meet a person who can remember Happolati either. This name, similar to Yajali, was taken from the book Sult by Knut Hamsun. In this classic Norwegian novel, agent J. A. Happolati is Ylajali’s father and the inventor of the electric hymnbook. The hymnbook at restaurant Happolati is the menu, and while it’s not electric it’s certainly an inventive book!
The head chefs at Happolati are Rune Bjørneng and Mads Kjøllmoen. Rune and Mads spent their last days in the food bar of Arakataka before they ventured off on a one-month inspirational trip to the hidden corners of Asia. On the streets of Taipei, Shanghai, and Tokyo they prepared for their next adventure, which awaited back home in Oslo. Onboard the Happolati team they have a bunch of experienced people, like the restaurant manager Linnea Björk and Simon Zimmermann who was head sommelier at Ylajali. Zimmermann also won the Norwegian sommelier championship in 2015 and part of the prize he received was to make his own wine. I was fortunate enough to try a glass from that wine when he made a guest appearance at the wine bar Territoriet.
The wonderful interior was planned and designed by Anderssen & Voll. I’m truly impressed at what they have done with the place. Torbjørn Anderssen and Espen Voll have managed the impossible, which is to preserve the beautiful, old ambiance of the previous restaurant Ylajali, and combine it with a new and modern look. It’s clearly Asian-inspired, just like the food, but still very Scandinavian. In that sense, the interior actually tells you something about the dining experience you are about to indulge in. The design reminds me of the new restaurant Kadeau in Copenhagen, and something about the huge art-piece on the wall brought my memory back to restaurant Amass as well.
The food genre, as I mentioned in my introduction, is hard to define. It’s certainly inspired by Asian street food, but to call it street food, like a Norwegian newspaper did, is misleading. That made me, and many others, believe this would be a new kind of Hitchhiker. Happolati closer to a fine dining restaurant, but not stiff by any means. The presentations are original and spectacular. Both the waiters and chefs take part in the show as they’re playing with smoke and fire by the table. You’ll see well-known special effects when hot broth meets dry ice. I wouldn’t call this molecular gastronomy, but it draws some inspiration from that style. Asian flavors dominate, but the ingredients are mostly local and seasonal. The Nordic elements are obvious, and in that sense, Happlolati follows in the footsteps of restaurants like Pjoltergeist, Kamai, and Aymara.
You can choose the big menu with 9 servings priced at NOK 650,- or the smaller 5-course menu at NOK 475,-. You can also get the whole menu as à la carte. I usually prefer the starters at a restaurant over the main courses. In the case of Happolati, it was the other way around. I missed that extra punch of flavor in the first few pieces of snacks. From the noodle soup / spicy wonton serving and onwards, the taste buds get a proper beating, though. Some of the dishes are made to be shared, others you get on separate plates. They’re all plated with love and care and look spectacular on the unique plates, bowls, and trays they’ve chosen for this restaurant. I particularly enjoyed the main course Pigeon & Blood and the dessert Bao, where you as a guest get involved with the final preparation of your food.
Are you inspired to visit Happolati? Please leave a comment below.