Restaurant chokes on competition

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A chic and trendy Asian restaurant that leased a prime space in Oslo’s fancy new waterfront complex at Tjuvholmen has taken the complex’ owners to court after they also leased space to another popular sushi restaurant. The owners of Hanami, it seems, can’t stand the competition from Alex Sushi.

Alex Sushi is a popular if pricey addition at Oslo's Tjuvholmen waterfront complex that a rival restaurant, Hanami, wants to remove. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Alex Sushi is a popular if pricey addition at Oslo’s Tjuvholmen waterfront complex that a rival restaurant, Hanami, wants to remove. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

The conflict has grown as heated as the wasabi that can accompany their dishes. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported on Tuesday that after losing a legal effort to prevent the Tjuvholmen landlords from leasing to Alex Sushi, the men behind Hanami filed suit in the Oslo city court (Oslo tingrett). They claim that Tjuvholmen Butikk og Restaurant Holding (TBR), owned by the Selvaag real estate family and developers Aspelin Ramm, violated the terms of Hanami’s lease when they leased space to another restaurant with a food concept similar to its own.

Hanami’s lawyers planned to spice up the legal proceedings by calling on some Norwegian food celebrities to testify on Hanami’s behalf. They include local author and restaurant critic Erik Fosnes-Hansen, author and food writer Andreas Viestad and wine columnist and critic André Blomberg-Nygård. They’re all reputed experts on food and restaurants, and were expected to claim that Alex Sushi’s food is too much like Hanami’s. Viestad, who won some international fame for hosting the TV series “New Scandinavian Cooking,” told DN that he will testify that “both Alex Sushi and Hanami serve what I would call ‘modern sushi'” and that both restaurants “have a relatively similar style.”

Their customers may disagree. While Hanami has a spacious waterfront location and offers a large menu with many warm dishes, Alex Sushi’s restaurant on the opposite, harbour side of the complex is much smaller and features mostly a large sushi bar with a far more limited menu. Alex Sushi, which has won rave reviews in the international press as well as the Norwegian, also has altered its own concept at Tjuvholmen since opening at its original location at Solli Plass in Oslo more than a decade ago. Alex Sushi also had a restaurant in Copenhagen and will open one in Stavanger early next year.

There are several other restaurants at Tjuvholmen and the adjacent Aker Brygge complex that also specialize in sushi and other Asian food. Hanami’s complaint only targets Alex Sushi, though.

Two other well-known Oslo restaurant operators were due to testify on Alex Sushi’s behalf, as will its owner Petter Sandberg. All, it seems, will try to impress the judge with their knowledge of food and drink, right down to what kind of wine glasses are used at each place.

Hanami’s owners claim they’ve suffered financial losses since Alex moved in nearby and that “the amount is growing every day,” according to Hanami lawyer Svein Kjetil Stallemo. They want compensation. The court case was due to last for three days.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund