Review: Happolati Elevated Asian Street Food

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. The new concept is elevated Asian street food, and the Asian inspiration is also evident in the interior design. 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.

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The menu at Happolati is made of wood.
The menu at Happolati is made of wood.

The Name is Taken From Hamsun

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!

Interior design by Andersen & Voll.
Interior design by Andersen & Voll.
Sommelier Simon Zimmermann.
Sommelier Simon Zimmermann.

Inspiration Trip to Asia

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. The front of house team at Happolati are experienced people like restaurant manager Linnea Björk (formerly of Arakataka) and sommelier Simon Zimmermann (formerly of Ylajali). Zimmermann also won the Norwegian sommelier championship in 2015.

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 tasting menu.
The tasting menu.

Interior Design by Andersen & Voll

The interior was planned and designed by Anderssen & Voll. I’m impressed by what they have done with the place. Torbjørn Anderssen and Espen Voll have managed 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. To some degree, 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.

Scallops, yuzu, and fennel. A beautiful presentation, but I missed some more punch in the flavors of these starters.
Scallops, yuzu, and fennel. A beautiful presentation, but I missed some more punch in the flavors of these starters.
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.

Elevated Asian Street Food

The food concept is elevated Asian street food. Happolati serves fine dining food with original presentations in a casual setting. 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, like the smoked from hot broth meeting with dry ice. Asian spicers and flavors dominate the taste, but the ingredients are mostly local and seasonal.

You can choose between the big menu with nine servings priced at NOK 650 or the smaller five-course menu (NOK 475), but you can also order 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 got 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 great 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. I hope to return to Happolati again soon to see how the young chefs progress.

Squid served two ways. Great quality!
Squid served two ways. Great quality!
Bone marrow & oysters, topped with crispy tempura and greens.
Bone marrow & oysters, topped with crispy tempura and greens.
Noodle soup with toppings.
Noodle soup with toppings.
The big table for larger parties.
The big table for larger parties.
Spicy wontons. So yummy!
Spicy wontons. So yummy!
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.
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.
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.

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

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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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