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