Tuesday, May 20, 2014

CX0873, Business Class, SFO-HKG

As you read about last time, my recent business trip to Tokyo didn't begin exactly as planned.  I ranted a bit about the disaster that was my JAL flight, or, specifically, lack thereof, so I'll spare you re-hashing it again.  Let's just say that when I finally boarded a Cathay Pacific flight at midnight instead, 7 hours later, I wasn't in the best mood.  I was tired, I was hungry, and I was really questioning my decision to fly the extra distance to Hong Kong, just to connect to Tokyo.

But, I was going to get to Tokyo, and that is what mattered, right?  And, I'd heard many great things about Cathay Pacific.  They are known for really having a premium product: excellent food, great service, modern aircraft.

Now, I have another tragic story.  I wrote a lovely post up about my flight experience, right after my travel, while it was fresh in my head.  I included details of the service, the wonders that were my seat, and of course, a very thorough review of the food served.  And ... I lost it.  I'm not sure what happened, but, the draft of the whole thing I had in Blogger was replaced with something else.

Luckily, I still had my tasting notes, in my handy little food blogger notebook, so I've been able to re-create my review of the food, but all my observations on the actual flight have been pretty lost.  And many subtleties of the meals.  Alas, this is better than nothing right?

What I do recall is that the flight was actually quite nice.  My grumpiness did disappear.  The service was indeed good.  I loved my seat, and it transformed into a quite comfortable bed.  And the 14 hour flight time, which sounded long at first, turned out to be a wonderful length: I was able to settle in, eat a full meal without rushing to get to sleep, change into my pajamas, get a full night's rest, have breakfast, and still not feel rushed.  In fact, I sorta think I'd pick to do this again, rather than just flying direct to Tokyo, particularly if it meant I could fly with Cathay again ... they really are a fantastic airline.
The Seat.
I was seated in Cathay's "new business" class, and it was a very impressive business class offering.  The seat was clearly well designed.  I did find it slightly better designed for sleeping rather than sitting, but, since that is what I'd be doing for the majority of my flight, I didn't mind too much.

My seat had all the amenities you could desire: power, usb charging ports, 3 different lights, a small side table, a large dining table that pulled out, and a cubby where the headphones could live.  There was a pocket for my water bottle, and even a cubby for my shoes.  Easy to find a place for everything.
Large TV screen.
At the foot of the seat was the ottoman, which would turn into the end of my bed once I transitioned into sleep mode.  The seat went fully flat.  I was provided with a very large blanket, comforter style, very comfortable.

The TV screen was impressively large, all touch screen.  I didn't end up using it on the flight though.
Supper Menu.
Once underway, the supper menu was presented.  A single starter (mesclun salad with grilled scallop and sesame oriental dressing) and a seafood or meat choice for the main:
  • Cod with sweet wine sauce, served with steamed jasmine rice, baby pak choy and carrots
  • Grilled USDA prime beef tenderloin with red wine sauce, yukon mashed potatoes, asparagus and baby carrots
Followed by desserts: a cheese platter (camembert, yellow cheddar, danish blue), fruit, or caramel cheese cake with chunky berry coulis.

For those who wanted a lighter meal, since it was so late, a soup (butternut squash) or salad (mesclun with smoked duck breast, tear drop tomato, fig, and balsamic vinaigrette) were available.

I was thrilled by this menu.  Every single course sounded good to me.  Cathay clearly spoke to my cuisine preferences.

Service began with a hot scented towel.
Drinks: Champagne, White Wine, Red Wine.
Next, the drink menu.  Not extensive, but since I'd spent the last few hours bored out of my mind in teh airport lounges, I'd been drinking, and didn't really care for more.

A single Champagne: Champagne Deutz, Brut Classic.

Two whites:

  • Spy Valley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012
  • Peter Schweiger Gruner Veltliner Kamptal Terrassen DAC Reserve 2011

And two reds:

  • Quincho Reserve Syrah Maule Valley 2010
  • Chateau Hanteillan Haut Medoc Cru Bourgeois 2010

But as I said, I didn't have any, I was too burnt out by my travel experience already at this point.

Supper Starter: Mesclun salad with grilled scallop and sesame oriental dressing. Bread and butter.
To begin the meal, we had no choice of starter, which was fine with me, since I love scallops, and would have picked this over many other choices anyway.

My tray also came with water and silverware.  I liked how the silverware packets always contained two forks and knives.

The base of the salad consisted of basic mesclun, just greens, but fresh enough, along with two roasted red peppers and two sun-dried tomatoes.  They added a pop of flavor, but otherwise were quite standard.

The scallops also came in a pair, served cold on top. They were far better than I expected.  Sure, cooked all the way through, not mid-rare, but they were tender and sweet, not rubbery, not fishy, actually fresh tasting.  Both a large size, with actual visible grill marks.

The sesame oriental dressing came on the side, in a little container.  It was sweet, but not overpowering, really, not bad.

I also had the choice of bread, either sourdough rolls, or garlic bread.  Obviously, I went for the garlic bread, since I don't like sourdough.  It smelt incredible.

Sadly, the bread did not taste as good as it smelt.  It was soggy, and very oily.  The garlic flavor was as fantastic as it smelt though.

This dish surprised me.  I had no idea what to expect from Cathay Pacific, although I knew they were known for their cuisine, and this set things off on a strong note.  Not the way I prefer to eat my scallops obviously, but for business class cuisine on an airplane, this was quite good.
Super Main Dish: Cod with sweet wine sauce, steamed jasmine rice and stir-fried pak choy with carrots.
Next up, my main dish was served.  I had the choice of beef or cod, and, obviously, I went for the cod.  I eat a lot of seafood, and cod is always a favorite of mine.

Unfortunately, the main dish was no where near as good as the starter, and not nearly as good as it sounded.

The rice was probably the best part, and that is saying something, since I dislike rice.  Probably not intentional, but the top of the rice was crispy, which I enjoyed.

The fish came as a generous chunk, but was way overcooked, severely dried out.  The veggies were completely mushy, although I appreciated the cute cut of the carrots.  The sauce, always a saving point for me, was kinda ok, a bit sweet.

The only bites of this that I could tolerate was some of the crunchy top rice drizzled with some sauce.

Service throughout my meal was quite attentive, and my dishes were quickly cleared whenever I was finished, or, in this case, when I indicated that I didn't want any more.
Drinks: Spirits, cocktails, signature drinks.
The rest of the alcoholic drink menu contained aperitifs, whiskies, liquors, and beer, along with the Cathay Pacific "Signature Drinks" (the Pacific Sunrise and the Cathay Delight), and, a port.

I decided that my dessert would go nicely with a glass of port.
Supper Dessert: Caramel cheese cake with chunky berry coulis. Dow's Late Bottled Vintage Port 2008.
After the lackluster main dish, I was looking forward to dessert.  While cheesecake isn't one of my absolute favorite desserts, it is one that I do enjoy, and, seemed like something that would be fairly easy to execute well on a plane, since it doesn't need to be super fresh and isn't temperature sensitive.

I was served a very generous slice.  The cheesecake was creamy, which I liked, but was otherwise unremarkable and quite generic.  Where was my promised caramel?  It seemed to just be the little swirl on top, not enough to taste.  The crust layer was thin and was totally lost under the giant slice of cheesecake.

The berry coulis was quite good, and well presented spooned over my slice.  It was sweet, and clearly contained raspberries.

I also enjoyed my port.

Nothing remarkable here, but, I finished quite satisfied.
Decaf Coffee.
To go along with my port and dessert, I also ordered an after-diner coffee, decaf of course.  It was fine.
After-Supper Chocolate.
And to finish the meal, an after-supper chocolate!
Breakfast Menu.
After my slumber, it was time for breakfast.

The breakfast menu began with a slew of light starters:
  • Orange or apple juice
  • Mango smoothie
  • Fresh seasonal fruit
  • Natural or fruit yoghurt
  • Assorted cereals
Followed by a choice of main dishes:
  • Shiitake mushroom omelette with grilled back bacon, roasted yukon potatoes and vine ripened tomato
  • Stir-fried e-fu noodles with dim sum and chili sauce
  • Seafood congee, served with spring onion pancake
All were served with a bread basket of assorted breakfast breads, served with preserves, honey and butter.

As with supper service, the meal began with an offer of a nicely scented hot towel.
Non-Alcoholic Drinks.
Non-alcoholic choices were fairly standard:
  • Juices: orange, apple, tomato
  • Soft Drinks: Coke Zero, Coke, Coke Light, Sprite, Perrier water, tonic water, soda water and ginger ale
  • Coffees: freshly brewed coffee, espresso, cappuccino and caffè latte (regular or decaffeinated)
  • Teas: Hong Kong style milk tea, Ceylon, Japanese, jasmine, oolong, Organic selection: camomile, earl grey and peppermint
  • Hot Chocolate
I hoped for a Hong Kong style milk tea, and really enjoyed it.  Sweet, creamy, and just caffeinated enough to give me a needed jolt.
Breakfast Starter #1: Mango smoothie. Apple cinnamon swirl, preserves, honey, butter.
Breakfast began with an offer of drinks.  I decided to start with a mango smoothie, as it sounded refreshing and pleasant for waking up on the flight.  It turned out to just be Odwalla brand, very thick.  It wasn't served cold enough for my taste.

Next, a bread basket was presented with a choice of breakfast breads - a croissant, bagel, or apple cinnamon swirl.  I went for the most decadent one, the apple cinnamon swirl.

None of the breakfast breads were served warm, minus one point for Cathay.  Warm breakfast pastries are always better!  My pastry was very generic, a bit stale tasting.  The apple chunks inside were mushy and seasoned with way too much cinnamon.  I did like the sweet glaze on top.

The bread basket also came with my choice of preserves (Bonne Mamman brand, strawberry or orange), honey, butter, or cream cheese.  None of these really make sense given the item I picked, but would have worked with the plainer choices.

So far, not impressive.
Decaf Coffee.
I also ordered a decaf coffee to go with my breakfast.  They didn't have any decaf when they came through with the cart, so had to go fetch it for me separately.  It was very strong and dark, but not that good.  Served with cream, sugar, and Equal.

There was a very long pause between the breakfast breads and the next course.  The breakfast service was much slower than supper, a long, drawn out affair.  I think this was intentional, as the idea behind having supper rather than dinner is that it is expedited so that people can get to sleep.  Still, multi-course long breakfast wasn't quite what I was expecting.  Not that I had anything else to be doing.
Breakfast Starter #2: Granola, yogurt.
Next, a set of light starters was offered from a cart: fruit, yogurt, or cereals.

The fruit platter consisted of melons, pineapple, and strawberry, so I had to decline it, due to my melon allergy.

Cereal was Kellogg's: Special K or granola with raisins, served with milk or yogurt.  The yogurts were Yoplait brand, offered in plain or peach.

I used to love Kellogg's granola, so I was excited to see it.  It had been years since I'd had it.  I decided to get yogurt to go with, in order to make a parfait, and went for the peach.

The yogurt was creamy, but way, way too sweet.  I couldn't stand it.  The granola was pretty much what I remembered, crunchy and good, and I appreciated the chunk sizes, but without any milk and with yogurt that I didn't want, I didn't quite know what to do with it.  I ended up just using the granola as something to nibble on with my coffee while I waited for the next course.  Next time, I'd get it with milk.
Breakfast Main: Seafood congee, served with spring onion pancake
For my main course, I went for the congee.  I'm not really sure why.  I knew I didn't want the omelet since I don't like eggs, and I guess congee just sounded warm and comforting.  Plus, I do like seafood ...

Anyway, it was not a good pick.

The congee was really watery, and quite gross.  It was loaded up with a generous amount of seafood, shrimp, fish, and bay scallops, but tasted really fishy.  The spring onion pancake was crazy oily, wet, and cold.

I was jealous of the noodles and dim sum course I saw several of my neighbors received, and vowed to order that next time.  (Which, I did on my very next flight.  Stay tuned to read about it!)
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