Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Cathay Pacific First Class, HKG-SFO, CX872

As I mentioned in my previous flight report, I decided not to do the simple thing and fly back from Tokyo directly, but instead, I opted to take a journey through Hong Kong.

My trip started in the JAL Sakura Lounge in Haneda, a mediocre offering.  It continued with my first international First Class flight from Haneda to Hong Kong, aboard Cathay Pacific, a very memorable experience.  And then I spent 4 hours exploring the fabulous Cathay Pacific Lounges in Hong Kong.  These were all incredible experiences, but nothing could prepare me for what lie ahead.  I assumed that my next flight would be similar to the one from Tokyo.  I didn't realize just how different regional and long haul flights are.  Spoiler: it gets better!

After throughly enjoying my time in the lounges, I had to actually go get on the plane.  I vowed that if I ever returned to Hong Kong, I'd plan for a longer layover.  4.5 hours had seemed like a lot when I settled on these flights, but the time was gone before I knew it, and honestly, I was reluctant to leave and get on my flight.

I half-heartedly boarded CX872, San Francisco bound, with a departure time of 1am, and just over 12 hours of flight time.  Again, 12 hours sounds like a long time, but I'd quickly learn that I would happily stay on that plane and just cruise around in circles.  I had no desire to ever get off.

I liked the staff on my previous flight, but the staff on this flight were even better.  They all seemed genuinely friendly, and when I mentioned it was my first time in First Class that day, they all seemed excited for me.

The flight was fairly smooth, but the seatbelt light did have to come on and off a few times during the flight, and remained on for an extended time during the final 1.5 hours of the flight, which was very poor timing.  Alas, not Cathay's fault, but it did make for a less comfortable final hour aboard.
My Main Seat.
Although the aircraft model for this flight was the same as my previous flight, and the seat layout was the same, the seat itself was slightly different.  I swear it was even wider, even more of a couch than a seat!  It had a USB charger again this time, along with power port.  The decor looked less dated, with leather upholstery this time rather than cloth.  The wooden window sill seemed even shiner.

Since it looked nicer to me, I originally thought it must be a newer plane.  But, then I saw the seat controls.  Rather than allowing me to adjust every dimension individually, it had only 3 positions: fully up, reclining, or sleeping.  Hmm.  So then I decided it must be an older plane.

Only much, much later in the flight did I discover a second touchscreen LCD control panel on the side.  This one did control everything, including massage chair functions, and additional lights.  I wish someone had oriented me to the seat sooner, I would have really liked to have been more comfortable throughout the journey.  I also discovered the armrest, with only about 20 minutes left in the flight.  Doh! Who knows how many other features I missed!
Companion Seat.
The companion seat was about the same, and I really appreciated being able to stow all my bags under it for easy access.  It did make me wish to do a journey like this with a companion, so we could take advantage of the seat aspects of that space.
Welcome Drink & Amuse Bouche: Krug, Tuna Tartare.
Within moments of sitting down, I was asked if I wanted a drink, and this time, rather than suggesting water or juice, I was offered champagne.  And this time, it was the good stuff: Krug.

Now, I don’t care that much for champagne.  Rarely my drink of choice.  But … this was quite good.  So smooth.  Really lovely.

Moments later an amuse bouche arrived.  It was tuna tartar, with mango and diced red peppers, with lots and lots of cracked black pepper.  The ingredients seemed fresh and fine, but the pepper was insanely overpowering, and it just didn’t work for me.  It was served with a crispy caramelized cracker, which was actually pretty good.

A water bottle was also provided at this time, which I appreciated, since I drink a lot of water, and I hate needing to ask for refills constantly.

I did find it amusing that no hot towel was offered to cleanse my hands.  A week in Japan and I already expect this all the time!  Incidentally, a towel was brought a bit later on, but shouldn’t it have been before the food?

Anyway, this was a wonderful welcome to my flight, and foreshadowed the spectacular experience that was about to follow.
My Sleeping Suit, Amenity Kit.
Next to arrive at my seat throne was an amenity kit in a beautiful cream colored leather case.  Much fancier than the business class pouch!

Moments later, I was given my sleeping suit, size small, royal blue color, designed by PYE.  I was a bit confused at first, as the cotton bag it came in was sewn shut.  Was I supposed to rip it open?  I guess so?

Inside was a lovely pair of pajamas, sorry, I mean, "sleeping suit", with matching eye mask and slippers.  The slippers were invaluable!  I always fly in my largest pair of footware, usually boots, so they don’t have to be jammed into my bag.  But it is such a pain to put boots on and off to go to the bathroom, and they are too uncomfortable to keep on during the flight.  Yes, life is hard.  But made much easier with slippers!  I really, really appreciated the slippers.

I also fell in love with the sleeping suit.  Light cotton pajamas, super soft, really breathable.  Even fairly stylish, dark royal blue with a grey stripe.  Clearly high quality, not meant to just be thrown out at the end of the flight.  They somehow were precisely the right weight for sleeping.  Someone clearly did a lot of research when designing these.  The pants in particular were perfect.  A bit baggy, but the drawstring waist took care of that.  They even had pockets.  I usually sleep in scrubs, a pair that I have literally had since high school, and I’m pretty sure I’ve finally found a replacement.  I’ve tried many other options over the years, but nothing has ever been as comfortable, and the proper weight as those scrubs, until now.  The top wasn’t something I’d normally pick, as I generally sleep in a t-shirt and a long sleeve t-shirt, and this was a long sleeve button down.  A cute design decision that they made however was to make it wearable in two styles,  in a traditional Chinese style buttoned all the way to the top, or Western style with the top button or two undone.  Works for everyone.  The other thing that amazed me about the pajamas, is that they really suit anyone, male or female, large or small.

Why does everyone rave about Cathay Pacific’s food and beds, and not the pajamas?  Seriously, these are great pajamas and I'm not sure why they aren't more famous.  Maybe there are just too many great aspects of the Cathay experience for them to hit most people’s radars?  No matter, I was quite impressed, and am so happy to have them as a souvenir of my trip.
Inside the Trussardi Amenity Kit.
After admiring my pajamas, I opened the lovely Trussardi leather case to reveal the contents, all by Aesop.  It contained earplugs, a brush, mouthwash, toothbrush, toothpaste, lip balm, face lotion, and hand balm.  The bathroom itself stocked everything else I’d need, including towels, body lotion, facial cleansers, and hydrating mist.  Amenities galore.
Supper Menu.
Next I was presented with the menus.  I groaned inside.  I had a big breakfast, a big lunch, snacks in Tokyo, a zillion course kaiseki dinner on my first flight, and then soooo much dim sum and sweets at the Hong Kong airport.  I couldn’t handle a meal.

But, the menu started with … caviar and balik salmon!  I still can’t believe this, even though I knew to expect it.  And, even though I don’t love caviar, I really wanted to have this experience.  I sorta wished I hadn’t eaten so much on my previous flights, or in the lounges, but I enjoyed all of that food, so I wasn’t really upset.

Instead, I took Emil’s advice, and asked to reserve an order for later on.  At some point later in the flight, after I woke up, I’d likely want a snack, and, caviar and salmon seemed like a perfectly suitable snack to me.  It is just eggs and salmon, both common breakfast items :)  Plus, it was going to be night in San Francisco when I woke up, so it wouldn't be weird to eat it then ... right?  I was a bit weirded out doing this, but the flight attendant didn’t bat an eye, and followed up by asking what other things I’d like to reserve.

The other starters on the supper menu were a roasted red pepper soup or mesclun salad with pitted Kalamata olives, sun-dried tomato, and balsamic vinaigrette.  Soup and salad?  Bo-ring, I had no problem skipping those.

For the main course, there was a choice of Western or Chinese style.

For Western entrees, the meat option was a grilled USDA certified Angus beef striploin with shallot red wine sauce and Bearnaise sauce, roasted cheese rosti, roasted portabello and red onion.  I’m not really a huge steak eater, but mm, Bearnaise!  The women next to me ordered this later on in the flight, and she kept exclaiming about how it was the largest steak she'd ever been served anywhere.  The vegetarian option was wild mushroom and ricotta agnolotti with mushroom sauce, which did indeed sound pretty good, but way too heavy for how I was feeling.

There were a number of Chinese entrees available as well, like a pork soup with winter melon and dried duck gizzard, a cold plate of sea bass with sweet vinegar dressing, or braised duck with onion sauce, served with steamed jasmine rice, black mushrooms, and choy sum.  The sea bass sounded perhaps good, but cold?

So it wasn’t hard to pass these all up, given how very full I was, and the fact that it was now about 3am for me.
Wine List.
As good as the Krug was, and as excited as I was to try some of the special wines, I also passed on those, as I was planning to just go to bed.  I hoped I'd have time for some later on.  The flight took off at 1am Hong Kong time, which was 2am Tokyo time, so I was pretty exhausted.
Spirits and Cocktails.
The spirits and cocktail list was the same as my previous flight.
Salted almonds, cognac.
After a few minutes to ponder the menu, I was asked if I wanted a drink.  Ok, ok, maybe I did need a nightcap!

I liked the Krug.  I’d liked the Pacific Sunrise and the port on my previous flight.  But, I wanted to mix it up.  And wanted something to go with the dessert I was planning to order (yes, I was getting dessert.  You didn't think I'd really pass up ALL the food, did you?).  So, I got a glass of cognac, Tesseron Lot 76 XO Tradition.  It was served in a proper glass, but was a bit harsh for me.  I also asked for sparkling water, which came with a swizzle stick!

My drinks also came with a little bowl of almonds.  I was sad to not get the great snack mix from my previous flight again, but, these were actually really tasty almonds.  They were just almonds, and I wasn’t hungry, but somehow, the salty crunchy nuts hit the spot.
Dessert: Sweet Taro and Sago Coconut Soup.
So yeah, about that aforemention dessert.  The supper menu concluded with a dessert section.  First option: cheese platter (fourme d' ambert, manchego, arenberger, french blue).  Meh.  Next, fresh berries with whipping cream and rose water syrup.  That sounded light and quite tasty.  Next, cherry clafoutis cake with vanilla ice cream and raspberry coulis.  Ok, now we are talking.  I bet they serve it warm.  Warm cake and ice cream!  But the final dessert is where my eyes were immediately drawn: sweet taro and sago coconut soup.  I love, love, love taro and coconut.  Sure, I’d just had about 10 different desserts in the lounge but … dessert!

When my attendant came around to take the dinner order, I said I was just going to have dessert now, and then try to get some sleep.  She didn’t seem weirded out by this at all.  She asked if I wanted the dish hot or cold.  I hadn’t thought about that.  I asked for a recommendation, and she said she likes it warm, particularly to make it comforting before bed.  So I went for it that way, and she warned me it would take about 10 minutes to heat up.  No problem.

My dessert arrived.  Granted, I didn’t really know what to expect.  Soup?  I thought it would likely be more like tapioca pudding.  But, indeed, it was a soup, served in a big bowl, with a Chinese soup spoon.  The broth was coconut milk, and inside were cubes of cooked taro and sago.  The taro was well cooked, not mushy, not too firm.  Same with the sago.  I was a bit shocked at how well done it was.

The dish was warm, and it was comforting.  I was pretty happy with my choice, as strange as it was to just get dessert.  I don’t really think it was that strange actually, as everyone was on weird schedules.  You kinda have to be to be on a flight departing at 1am that arrives at 9pm.  Some meal, at some point, just isn’t going to make sense.  The 6 seat cabin had only 4 occupants, 2 of whom asked to have their beds made up right away, and the other who went for full dinner.

I was also given a tray of pralines after I finished my dessert, mostly the same as on my previous flight.  This time, instead of chocolate covered hazelnuts, I had chocolate covered almonds.  They were ok, slightly candied, but I didn't love them.  I had the same chocolate truffle with creamy chocolate inside that was quite nice.  And this time, the dark chocolate and dried fruit bar with candied citrus, popping with flavor.
Bathroom sink.
After my lovely dessert, it was time to try to get some sleep.  My computer clock read 3:20am, Tokyo time.  Ugh.  Between all the food and drinks, it was no wonder I was feeling so funky.  I was exhausted.  It is hard work sitting around eating and drinking for hours!

I was told to just let the attendant know when I’d like my bed prepared.  This sounded very strange ... my bed ... prepared?  But I’d watched them do this for the other passengers, so I knew what to expect.  Turndown service on the plane.  Crazy.  They actually pull out a mattress pad and set up a full bed!  If I was ever going to be able to sleep on a plane, this was going to be it.

So I notified the attendant, and I headed off to the bathroom with my amenity kit and bag of PJ’s. The bathroom was similar to the previous flight, again with a modern sink, and a faucet that actually stayed running.  Sometimes, it is the little things that make a big impression, but seriously, so much easier to wash your face this way. 
My bed awaits!
By the time I returned, my seat had been completely transformed.  It was now a bed, a legit bed.  Not just a seat that lay flat.  A bed.  I laughed at myself, because when Emil was booking my flight, I told him to book this flight in business.  I said that the seat lay flat, and I didn’t need anything else.  He of course didn’t listen to this advice and told me that of course I needed to be in First Class.  Clearly, he realized what a difference there is between Business and First.  While sitting up, the seat is wider, and slightly more comfortable.  The service, given that there are 2 attendants for at most 6 people, is obviously better.  The food and drink are top notch.  But I didn’t realize just how really, really different it is to have a bed.

So, let me explain.  Sure, the seat is wide, and it lays flat.  But then, they add a mattress pad that extends the full length of the bed, with sheets on top, and holes cut out for your seatbelt to come through.  A full comforter rests on top, no awkward struggling with a blanket that is too small.  And not one, not two, but three pillows are provided.  Like I said, it is a bed.  I thought the business class fully flat seat was a thing of amazement compared to anything else I’d flown before, but this was truly spectacular.

I didn’t actually end up sleeping very well, but I cannot blame the bed in any way.  I think I was just way too sleep confused at this point.
Snack and Brunch Menu.
After a few hours of dozing, I decided that it was time to move on with my dining experience.  I can’t say I was hungry exactly, but I was looking forward to trying the brunch section of the menu.  Like the supper menu, it was extensive.

But stepping back a moment, I only covered about half the menu when I described the offerings before.  Along with the full supper menu, there was a "snack" menu.  From that menu I could select shrimp wontons in noodle soup (which did actually sound a bit appealing, a warm soup as a light snack).  Or, a “snack” of a grilled Australian prime grain fed beef burger with Swiss cheese and pickled gherkin.  Not exactly a light meal, but I love that they had a burger.  Going back in the lighter direction, there was a chicken skewer with Greek yogurt dressing and roasted beetroot.  Totally not my thing, but did sound like a nice light option if you wanted some protein and not beef.  The final "snack" was hot pot rice with chicken, mushroom, Chinese sausage and chou sum, served with chicken soup with Chinese herbs.  Oh, also, Haagen-Daz ice cream.

I skipped all of this, and moved ahead to brunch.  Because, brunch.
Hong Kong Style Milk Tea, Cathay Delight.
I started with drinks: more sparkling water with ice and lemon, Hong Kong style milk tea, and the non-alcoholic signature cocktail that caught my eye earlier, the Cathay Delight.  I also had the choice of a number of other teas or coffee, juices, or a mango and passion fruit smoothie.

The milk tea was delicious.  I’m addicted to these, and I wish so much that they were easier to find in the US.  In Tokyo, I drank cold Royal Milk Teas out of the vending machines nonstop.  Creamy, sweet, slightly black tea flavor … like dessert and a comforting drink all in one.  Love them!

The Cathay Delight I didn’t actually like.  Described as “a kiwifruit based non-alcoholic drink with coconut juice and a touch of fresh mint”.  It sounded fruity and refreshing, perfect for morning since I didn’t want the regular orange, apple, or grapefruit juice offered, or the heavier mango and passionfruit smoothie.  It looked good, garnished with little sprigs of mint.  But I really didn’t like the flavor.  Sometimes I just don’t like kiwi, and this apparently was one of those times.
Starters: breakfast breads, fresh fruit.
For starters, I was offered yogurt, cereal, fresh fruit, and breakfast breads or toast with preserves, honey, and butter.  And, yes, they actually toast bread in first class.  Besides the toast, it all sounded very similar to business class, and yogurt and cereal aren’t particularly remarkable items, so I skipped those.  I was tempted by the muesli, since I remembered the milk being particularly memorable on my earlier business class flight, really rich (yes, I'm raving about milk).  But there were so many other things to choose from, and cereal was about the least interesting thing I could order.  I had read that the yogurt on these flights was really amazing, but again, I skipped.  I'd come back to these if I somehow still wanted more food.

On my business class flights, the fruit from SFO was boring, and full of melon, but the fruit from HKG was quite good, so I asked for the fruit, as long as there was no melon.  I was in luck, no melon!  The fruit assortment was a slice of lovely ripe mango, 2 pieces of super juicy pineapple, 2 huge chunks of kiwi, and some rather sour strawberries.  Besides the berries, it was all really fresh, sweet, flavorful, and exactly what I needed at that point.  The mango was particularly memorable.  I thought I wasn’t hungry, but as soon as I dug into the fruit, I changed my mind.  How did they have such great fruit?

On my business class flights, we were also offered breakfast breads (although not the freshly toasted bread).  The breakfast pastries were not very good either time, and came around in a big basket for us to select one or two from.  I wanted to see how the First Class breads would compare.  From reading other trip reviews, I knew that in First Class they’d arrive warm, and that I’d get a whole basket full for myself.  They didn’t disappoint.  Sure, they weren’t the best pastries.  But served warm?  Makes such a difference.

My basket contained a banana muffin, a croissant, and a hazelnut paste stuffed croissant.  The banana muffin was my favorite, even though it wasn’t particularly interesting.  It didn’t have nuts or anything, and no visible banana.  But, it did have a really crunchy top, just like I like.  Inside was moist.  It was ok on its own, but I really liked it slathered with both the strawberry jam and butter provided alongside.  I also was given orange marmalade and honey, which I did not try.  High quality condiments, for sure.

The croissant was a shocker, somehow, it was really light and flaky.  I wasn’t that into it, but I was pretty impressed that it was so flaky and good, given that we’d taken off so long before and it wasn’t fresh.  If I was having eggs, or smoked salmon, or something to go with it, I probably would have finished it, but since I had so many other things coming, I only nibbled on it.  Same with the hazelnut paste filled danish.  It was warm, it was decent, but I didn’t love it, and I was looking forward to my dim sum.  Although, I was full again.  This seems to be a theme of my journey!
Peppermint Tea.
To go with my main breakfast, I also ordered peppermint tea.  I didn’t want too much caffeine since I knew I’d be landing in SFO at 9pm in a few hours, and was hoping to sleep at some point when I got home, so I resisted ordering more milk tea, although I really, really wanted it.

The tea came as a whole pot, which was perfect, as otherwise I would have run out quickly.
Dim Sum.
For main brunch dishes, the Western option was organic free range eggs, prepared however you wanted (scrambled, fried, or boiled).  Yes, like the toast, they actually cook the eggs to order.  This is crazy.  The eggs come with pan-fried Cumberland sausage, broiled back bacon, bubble & squeak, roasted tomato with parsley, and sautéed fresh button mushrooms.  Emil always gets this, and has commented many times on how impressive their fresh eggs are.  But, I’m not really an egg girl.

The next brunch offering was congee with shredded chicken, dried bonito and peanuts, served with stir-fried egg noodles and vegetables.  I really didn’t like the congee on my previous flight, so I wasn’t remotely interested in that.

Instead, I went for the final option: dim sum.
Inside my dim sum basket.
Sure, I just had a ton of dim sum in the lounges.  And, I had the dim sum on one of my previous flights in business class and didn’t really like it.  But if this flight had taught me anything thus far, it is that first class and business class are not remotely the same.  And this particular mix sounded great: crab meat and chive dumpling, shrimp with pork Goldfish dumpling, beef meatball, and vegetarian glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaf.  I knew the moment I read the menu earlier that I’d want it, so I reserved it long before breakfast.

The dim sum certainly looked better than the business class offering.  Instead of just a packet of chili sauce on the side, I was given a little bowl of chili sauce.  I was also provided a bowl of soy sauce, which I’d found very lacking on my previous dim sum endeavor.  I was also given real wooden chopsticks, not ones I’d break in half again.

I eagerly went for the crab and chive dumpling to start.  I love crab.  I was met with immediate disappointment.  It was not crab, it was shrimp.  Why is it that the ingredients I’m most excited for keep not existing?  No uni in my earlier dish as promised, and now no crab.  The shrimp was rubbery, and the wrapper over-cooked.  Strike one.

Next I went for the goldfish dumpling, as it was adorable.  I don’t like pork, but I didn’t actually taste any in there.  Given the menu track record, I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t any.  The wrapper on this was better, and it was my favorite piece of the assortment, but none of it nearly as good as what I’d had in the lounges.

Next, the meatball.  It was awful.  It tasted more like pork sausage than beef meatball, and it was soggy and spongy.  My least favorite item.

Finally, I opened up the wrapper for the glutinous rice.  It wasn’t very good on my previous flight, and I questioned how they could make it good in-flight, but since they keep having it on menus, I figured it was worth a try.  Good sticky rice can be so tasty!  I was very surprised when I opened it up to find … certainly not vegetarian fillings, as described.  A mix of meat I couldn’t identify, most likely pork or beef, maybe some Chinese sausage, but most certainly not vegetarian.  I’m not a fan of mystery meat.  And the rice wasn’t really glutenous, just kinda gummy and nasty.

This whole assortment was quite disappointing.  It looked good, but I wouldn’t want any piece again.
Fresh berries with whipping cream and rose water syrup.
After my brunch, I was fairly disappointed.  The dim sum just wasn’t very good, and I wanted something sweet to go with coffee.  I ordered the coffee, but since the seatbelt sign was on, it couldn’t be delivered to me.  For something sweet, the remaining dessert choices were the cherry clafloutis cake with ice cream, or berries with whipped cream.  I asked about the cake, and she brought it out to show me.  It didn’t look particularly good, even if it was going to be warm with ice cream, so I went for the fruit.

I received a bowl of strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries.  Just like in my brunch fruit platter, the strawberries were sour, and were barely red, totally underripe.  The raspberries were mushy.  The blueberries were fine.  There was light sweet syrup drizzled over everything which helped with the lack of flavor in the fruit.

But, what about the whipped cream? This is what I was looking forward to, given the delicious clotted cream that came with my pie on my earlier flight.  Instead, there was a pitcher of cream.  Well, I guess it did say “whipping cream”, not “whipped cream”.  It was good cream, but not quite what I wanted.  Sigh.  And, the fruit came without my coffee, and I’d run out of other beverages.  A bit of a fail here, although sweet fruit with a bit of cream was nice.
Decaf coffee, biscotti.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, the seatbelt sign went off.

My coffee was immediately delivered, with an almond biscotti on the side.  If I had known there was biscotti, I probably wouldn’t have asked for the fruit, as I really was just wanting something sweet to go with coffee.  It was standard biscotti, a bit sweet, good crunch from the almonds, nice to dunk in the coffee.

The coffee was again not very good, and I know I said I wasn't going to order it again, but I was really in the mood for it, so I dealt with the very sub-par decaf.
Caviar and Balik salmon, Pacific Sunrise.
Near the final two hours of my flight, I was fairly confused as to what time it was.  My Tokyo clock said noon.  But it was 7pm in San Francisco.  I’d only dozed a couple hours, and I’d been eating on a super strange schedule, fairly nonstop since my journey began.  I wasn’t necessarily hungry.  I wasn’t sure what I was, but I knew that I would regret at least not trying the caviar and salmon.  I mean, seriously, how do you not try this?  I could smell other food cooking around me, and it all smelt good.  I almost got the pasta I'd passed up earlier, or the shrimp wontons, or even the burger.  Comfort food seemed nice.  But, I figured this was a once in a lifetime experience.

I also ordered a glass of Krug to go with it, but, was told that the chiller was broken, and there was no cold Krug.  I was offered the business class champagne instead.  Doh.  So, instead I got another Pacific Sunrise.  If I was going to be having lesser champagne, I might as well add the citrus to make it tastier, since I didn’t like the champagne I’d had in business class before.

As the plate was placed in front of me, I probably gasped.  Wow.  The serving consisted of two large chunks of salmon, a generous pile of caviar, two toast points, two potato halves, chopped onion and egg, and sour cream topped with chives.

Ok, this was delicious.  I’m not even a caviar fan.  And I eat salmon all the time.  But damn.  I wish I’d had this for breakfast instead of the dim sum.  Honestly, if I were to ever do this sort of flight again, I’d get it for breakfast.  Smoked salmon, toast, caviar, eggs .. seems totally reasonable to me.  Maybe I’d add a croissant to the mix.  I’d also get it as my starter earlier in the flight.  Would they let me just order this one dish over and over again?  I didn’t need any of the other food.   Really.  Wow.

To step back, let me describe the components.  I’ve actually only ever had caviar as a garnish before, or once or twice with blini, but I think this came with fairly classic pairings?  I wasn’t entirely sure what was supposed to go with what, but I made it all work.

Obviously, there was a serious mound of caviar.  I can’t believe how much was given.  High quality, salty, kinda exactly what I wanted at that point in the flight.  I’ve read that on flights you don’t taste saltiness as well, so perhaps that is why I enjoyed it even more?  I spread some on the toast, but that was a bit boring.  One toast piece was whole wheat, the other baguette.

I moved on to the salmon.  The salmon was stunning, some of the best I've ever had.  Smoked salmon, served cold, really, really high quality.  No fishiness, so stringiness, just really, really good.  I’m now grumpy at all the seafood I had on the flight out of Tokyo.  This was sooo much better.  I enjoyed the salmon mostly just on its own, bite by bite, savoring ever moment.  I could have eaten a platter of it.  It would make a fabulous breakfast with a croissant.  Next time.

The accompaniments were also all good.  The finely chopped onion added a harsh bite, and the egg combined nicely with the potato.  It was cute that the whites and yolks were separated, although I ended up just mixing it all together.  The potatoes were the only part that fell a bit short, they were a tiny bit overcooked and mushy.

I'm sure I committed a horrible act here, but, I ended up making “potato salad”, by chopping up the potato, mixing in onion, egg, sour cream, and a bit of caviar, and I have to say, that was perhaps the tastiest potato salad I’ve ever had.  It was creamy, salty, flavorful.  Was I “supposed” to do that with all these components?  Probably not.  But I loved it.  I've now vowed to add caviar to my potato salad in the future.  Perhaps a waste of caviar to some, but, damn good.

I said I wasn’t hungry and just wanted to try this dish, but it disappeared completely, within seconds.  Literally.  I honestly thought about ordering a second plate.  I think I would have if we hadn't hit turbulence and been told that all service was stopped for the remainder of the flight.  Seriously, it was so good.  The best thing I’ve ever consumed on an airplane in my life.  I guess it helps that it is a cold dish, and the quality of the ingredients is high, but still.  Most of the Japanese meal I had out of Tokyo was cold dishes, and it was all seafood, and it didn't even compare to this.  I know fully understand why Emil loves Cathay Pacific.  If he gets to enjoy this dish, with a glass of Krug, reliably, I couldn’t imagine flying any other way.

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It is in this moment that I realized I truly am totally ruined for all future air travel.  I'm pretty sure nothing will ever compare to this experience, start to finish.

The entire experience was just that, an experience.  Throughout the trip, I kept saying to myself I’d be ruined for traveling in the future. There were a number of times when I thought, “Well, how do I ever go back from this?”  Sure, I can deal with less attentive service, subpar food and drinks, a smaller seat, a bathroom without real towels.  I can bring my own pajamas and slippers aboard to change in to.  I don’t need to use the lounge (or, at least for now, I can use my status to get in regardless of class I’m flying).  But the caviar and salmon?  That is irreplaceable.  I’m fairly certain that I’ve now experienced the ultimate in flying decadence.  It is unlikely that I’ll ever enjoy something so much on a plane again.  I have one friend who says you should never experience the best in anything, because it will ruin you, and you’ll never be satisfied again.  In principle, I understand.  But, in practice, I totally disagree.  This was truly worth it.  Such an incredible experience.
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