Happolati Asian Inspired Gourmet in a Magic Wrapping

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.

The entrance
The entrance

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 menu made of wood
The menu made of wood
Sommelier Simon Zimmermann
Sommelier Simon Zimmermann

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.

I love the cups and plates they've found. Sets the mood straight away
I love the cups and plates they’ve found. Sets the mood straight away
The girl
The girl
The bar
The bar

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 interior design by Andersen & Voll
The interior design by Andersen & Voll
The most beatiful restaurant menu I have ever seen
The most beatiful restaurant menu I have ever seen
Scallops, yuzu and fennel. A beautiful presentatation, but I missed some more punch in the flavors of these starters.
Scallops, yuzu and fennel. A beautiful presentatation, but I missed some more punch in the flavors of these starters.

The food genre, as I mentioned in my introduction, is hard to define. It’s certainly inspired by Asian streetfood, but to call it streetfood, like a Norwegian newspaper did, is misleading. That made me, and many others, believe this would be a new kind of Hitchhiker. Happolati is more of a fine dining restaurant. 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.

Sparkling sake and green tea
Sparkling sake and green tea
Cabbage chips with a dip. An interesting dish, but in my opinion they need a more flavorful dip.
Cabbage chips with a dip. An interesting dish, but in my opinion they need a more flavorful dip.
Squid served two ways. Great quality!
Squid served two ways. Great quality!

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 gets a proper beating, though. Some of the dishes are made to be shared, others you get on seperate 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.

Bone marrow & oysters, topped with crispy tempura and greens
Bone marrow & oysters, topped with crispy tempura and greens
Noodle soup
Noodle soup
Noodle soup
Noodle soup
The big table
The big table
Spicy wontons. So yummy!
Spicy wontons. So yummy!
Slurping noodle soup like a pro
Slurping noodle soup like a pro
The grilled langoustine with a dip of all the good flavors of Asia
The grilled langoustine with a dip of all the good flavors of Asia
Pigeon & blood. The wraps are made from blood.
Pigeon & blood. The wraps are made from blood.
A wrap and a fried pigeon leg? Delicious!
A wrap and a fried pigeon leg? Delicious!
This is a Nordic twist on crispy duck
This is a Nordic twist on crispy duck
Dry aged beef and lumpfish roe
Dry aged beef and lumpfish roe
Restaurant manager Linnea Björk
Restaurant manager Linnea Björk
The dessert box! To fill your caramelized baos you get two types of ice cream, a chocolate cream and lemon curd, as well as corn flakes and chocolate crumbs
The dessert box! To fill your caramelized baos you get two types of ice cream, a chocolate cream and lemon curd, as well as corn flakes and chocolate crumbs
Caramelized bao with chocolate ice cream, lemon curd and corn flakes
Caramelized bao with chocolate ice cream, lemon curd and corn flakes
A fortune cookie with your bill. I ate mine, and got this message
A fortune cookie with your bill. I ate mine, and got this message
The chefs. Rune Bjørneng & Mads Kjøllmoen
The chefs. Rune Bjørneng & Mads Kjøllmoen
Closing time
Closing time
St. Olavs plass by night
St. Olavs plass by night

Are you inspired to visit Happolati? Please leave a comment below.

4 comments

  • Interestingly, I agree with your comment about the starter having somehow subdued flavor. Interestingly in so far as we had a different starter: sea urchin | wakame | dashi. Thus when you come the first time to Happolati without knowing what to expect further on, the starter seems like a disappointment. However, in retrospect I think that the dish still works – as a gentile introduction to the culinary detonations still to come. Is this the idea behind the dish? Will we ever know?
    I am afraid I wholeheartedly disagree with you on the dip served with the fermented cabagge chips. These chips are so delicate and – after the starter – immediately made me realise that I am in the right place. I think the dip with dried shrimps is almost overpowering. But maybe my interpretation of what you mean by “flavorful” is wrong in the first place anyway?
    I am entirely d’accord with the rest of your descriptions. (It looks that we had a different dip with the langoustine, thus there are maybe still some minor adjustments going on.) The desert of caramalized buns is a show and worth the price of entry alone. Great wine list, but you know what to expect from Simon Zimmermann. Although I hope for more sake the next time. The tab on the restaurant menu was still empty on our visit.

  • Four of us dined there on Saturday. We started early (17.30) and we weren’t the first. By 19.00 it was full, and more diners were arriving when we left at 20.45 after three hours of the most laid-back, fabulously indeed cheekily presented food entertainment I have enjoyed since the young days of Noma. I recognize some of the dishes above but they change the menu every couple of months, they told us. Our bao came with two sauces, the most mindblowing of which was a mushroom cream! We asked if we could take some home, whereupon the chef wrote down the recipe for us!
    The wine list is full of stuff I would love to try, like a whole range of Teraldago. But is it worth spending 1500 kroner on a wine you suspect will be knocked for six as the dishes get spicier and spicier? We asked what we should choose and with quite a lot of help from our guiding fairy we were presented with two Rieslings, both at the bottom end of the price range. The “mineral” proved to be a great choice and we got through two bottles before rounding off with the slightly cheaper one just to try it.
    Great fun, fabulous presentation, lovely, unpretentious service, and wonderfully tasty, inventive food.

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