Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Japan Airlines, Tokyo to San Francisco, Business Class

Flight Details

Flight: JL2.
Departure Time: 7:50pm.
Aircraft: 777-300.
Class: Business.
Seat: 9A

My return flight to San Francisco was the same aircraft, same service style as my flight to Tokyo.   This time, I was in the main business cabin, and greatly wished I had been able to snag a seat in the mini cabin.

Service took forever to get started, more than an hour into the flight and our drink orders hadn't even been taken.  My meal concluded at the 3 hour mark.  For a just-over 9 hour flight, this certainly didn't leave time for sleep.  The cabin lights weren't dimmed until nearly 4 hours into the flight, and were back on full with 3 hours remaining.  We all got about 2-3 hours to sleep.  Ooph.

I had a screaming child nearby, who never stopped.  Sigh.

That all said, the food was actually quite good, likely some of the best I've had on a flight.  Service was very attentive and friendly, once it started.

I think I have a note for my future self, should I ever wind up on this route again: Eat dinner at the airport.  They have some amazing options there (including like 6 different places with soft serve!).  Get a nightcap, and maybe dessert, on the flight.  And then go to sleep early.  Maybe?

Since the seat and amenities were the same on this flight, I'll leave out those details this time around, and focus only on the meal service.

Dinner Service

As with my previous flight, for the main meal service, you have the choice of a Japanese or Western menu. Both have the same amuse bouche, but different first courses, mains, and desserts (unlike my flight to Tokyo, where both menus had the same dessert).
Japanese Menu.
Sesame Tofu with Wasabi
Potato & Chanterelle Quiche

Crimson Sky 〜Selection of seasonal colorful delicacies〜
Prawn with Japanese Style Tartar Sauce & Caviar

Flower-Shaped Lotus Root
Japanese Pepper Flavored Pacific Saury Egg Roll with Eel
Steamed Taro

Braised Pork Sukiyaki Style
Slow Cooked Egg
Shiitake Mushroom
Welsh Onion
"Konnyaku" Noodles

Vinegared Persimmon & Vegetables with Sesame Cream

Poached Pike Conger with Pickled Plum Kelp Flavored Pufferfish

Japanese Style Stewed Beef Tongue
Miso-marinated Salmon

Steamed Rice
Miso Soup
Japanese Pickles

Soft Adzuki Bean Jelly
Western Menu.
The Western had an option for the main course (seafood, beef, or vegetarian), but everything else was fixed:
Sesame Tofu with Wasabi
Potato & Chanterelle Quiche

Marinated Salmon with Yogurt Sauce

Main Dish Choice
"Wagyu" Beef Sirloin Steak Assorted Mushrooms & Ravigote Sauce
Grilled Sesame Crusted Sea-bream Three Kinds of Purée & Beurre Blanc Sauce

Special Bread from MAISON KAYSER
Petite Ciabatta
Sweet Potato Petit Bread

Chestnut Tiramisu
Dinner Feast.
The Western menu actually sounded much better to me (nearly every course, including dessert), and I was pretty sick of Japanese food, but I had heard so many people say that you should order the Japanese menu when flying out of Tokyo.  So, Japanese it was for me, but my companion got the Western, so I got to try most of it.
Since I ordered the Japanese menu, I opted to try the sake.  It was served in a glass, and I was provided my own little bottle of sake.

It actually was pretty good, smooth, a bit sweet.  It made me realize I didn't drink nearly enough sake on my trip.
Amuse Bouche.
"Sesame Tofu with Wasabi / Potato & Chanterelle Quiche"

The presentation of the amuse was good, two items, both in little bowls.

The sesame tofu had a pipette of soy sauce to drizzle over it, a package of wasabi on the side, and a little bamboo spoon to eat it with.  But ... I didn't like it.  A very thick tofu with a strange flavor.

The quiche was, well, chilled quiche.  I never like quiche.  It had huge chunks ok potato in it.  It was hard and cold.  On top was shreds of something that I think were actually a meat product?

Overall, not successful, I didn't like either of these at all.
Crimson Sky 〜Selection of seasonal colorful delicacies〜.
Next up, my first course, all chilled, a ton of little dishes, served in a beautiful box.  They really did a great job with presentation on this one.

On the side, chopsticks, soy sauce, wasabi, and a chopstick rest. 

This was a mixed bag, some hits, some serious misses, but certainly interesting to eat.
Compartment #1.
"Prawn with Japanese Style Tartar Sauce & Caviar."

This was ok.

Three small prawns, tempura battered, with a big glob of mayo based sauce on top.  The batter wasn't really good though, cold batter just isn't tasty.  The shrimp wasn't too chewy though at least, but it was a bit fishy.  The tartar sauce was very mayo forward, it didn't taste like much else.

Overall, ok, but I hoped for better.
Compartment 2.
"Flower-Shaped Lotus Root
Japanese Pepper Flavored Pacific Saury
Egg Roll with Eel
Steamed Taro"

The next compartment contained 4 different items.

This wasn't great.  The lotus root was crispy but pickled, highly vinegared.  I had lotus root near daily while in Japan, so the novelty was gone, and this just wasn't great.

I hated the Pacific Saury.  Sooo fishy, kinda like a giant very fish sardine.

The taro was a different prep than I've had before; it had a slight skin left on it?  Tender enough, but not particularly flavorful, and a bit boring.  I dunked it in the tartar sauce.
Egg Roll with Eel.
The egg roll with eel turned out to be tomago with bits of eel in the middle.  Fine, but just an omelet, and I don't really like egg (unless sweet style dessert omelet!)
Compartment #3.
"Braised Pork Sukiyaki Style
Slow Cooked Egg
Shiitake Mushroom
Welsh Onion
"Konnyaku" Noodles"

This was shockingly good.  Highlight of the flight.  Great flavors.  

The braised pork was tender flavorful bits of basically bacon.  A bit crispy, quite tasty.
The carrot was just a carrot, so that was a bit boring.
I strangely loved the slow cooked egg.  And I was just saying how sick of eggs I was, given that my breakfast buffet included eggs all the time, and I'm not an egg girl in the first place.  But it was soft, the yolk runny and rich, and really, it was just tasty.
I also liked the shiitake mushroom and super flavorful welsh onion.
The "noodles" were a little bundle of slightly chewy noodles made from konjac.  I liked those too.
Not included in the description was the block of tofu, again, actually good, as it soaked up tons of the sauce.

Ahh, the sauce.  It was crazy good.  Slightly sweet. I think there was soy sauce, sugar, and some other things.  

I really loved this dish, and devoured it.  It was a shocker to me, as I thought it would be the least interesting dish.
Compartment #4.
"Vinegared Persimmon & Vegetables with Sesame Cream."

This was ... strange.  As I expected given the ingredients.  I have no idea what any of the veggies, all in shreds, were.  The sesame cream was almost good, but actually just was too strong for me.
Compartment #5, Part 1.
"Poached Pike Conger with Pickled Plum."

The poached pike conger (eel) was actually better than I expected.  Not fishy, not chewy, just very mild (and a bit boring).  The pickled plum sauce on top was tart and interesting.  It was served on top of spiraled crispy cucumbers, which I found really refreshing, particularly when dunked in my assorted sauces.
Compartment #5, Part 2.
"Kelp Flavored Pufferfish."

The kelp flavored pufferfish was awful though.  Incredibly chewy.  Lime garnish.
First Course: Western.
Marinated Salmon with Yogurt Sauce / Petite Ciabatta / Sweet Potato Petit Bread (Western).

The Western starter was actually quite good, and nothing like the short description implied.

The marinated salmon had plentiful dill to enhance the flavor, roe on top, and barely a drizzle of the yogurt sauce.  It was flavorful, mild, and really quite nice.  Served on top of some salad.

The breads on the side were cute, but lackluster, a bit chewy in a stale sense, and the sweet potato one didn't taste much like sweet potato.

The butter and generous bowl of salt on the side were great though.

Overall, actually a very nice starter, clearly the better dish.
Dainomono: Japanese Main.
"Japanese Style Stewed Beef Tongue / Miso-marinated Salmon / Steamed Rice / Miso Soup /Japanese Pickles."

The main dish (and all its sides) was also actually quite good.  It was also a ton of food.  Unlike the Western menu, with a choice of beef or seafood, you get both.  And that was *after* the zillion course "first course".
Beef Tongue / Miso-Marinated Salmon.
The beef tongue I expected to skip entirely.  But, the sauce was quite flavorful, a thick, rich onion sauce.  I really liked the sauce.

And the beef tongue?  It was ridiculously tender, it separated easily with chopsticks.  It seemed like it had been braised for hours.  Really quite impressive.  Also in the mix were various vegetables, carrots, onions, potatoes.  I guess this was basically Japanese beef stew?

The salmon was even better.  I adored the miso sauce on top.  The salmon wasn't fishy.  It was cooked medium-rare, as I like it.  It was nice fish.  It came with assorted mushrooms (fine, meaty), green beans (fine, refreshing), and a chunk of Japanese squash (dry, cold).
Steamed Rice.
The rice I skipped since it was just rice.
Miso Soup.
The miso soup was a thicker base than usual, and it had huge slimy chunks of eggplant (?!) in it, but the bits of tofu and green onion were quite good.
Japanese Pickles.
And finally, the pickles.  Tiny pickled plums, some kind of seaweed in sauce, and something crunchy (daikon perhaps?).  These were actually quite good too.

I wished I wasn't so full, as this was actually quality food, great flavors, well prepared.  
Kanmi: Soft Adzuki Bean Jelly.
The dessert included with my meal was the red bean jelly, with a yellow plum jam on the side to top it with.

It was actually ok.  Nice texture jelly, with bits of red bean inside it.  Good flavor, a bit sweet, not too sweet, not too savory.

I didn't like the plum jam, it was too tart and too sweet, but it also wasn't needed.

If this was the only option for dessert, I would have been fine with it.
Dessert: Chestnut Tiramisu (Western).
I actually wanted the Western dessert, so I was quite glad when my companion decided to go to bed before dessert was served, and I could just have his.

The base was a chocolate sponge cake, which I mostly avoided.  But the rest was cream with chunks of chestnut in it.  It was pretty tasty, and, given how chestnut crazy Japan was the whole time I was there, so I was in the mood for more chestnut.

The top was dusted in cocoa powder, which I didn't care for (and also didn't want, because caffeine).  But the cocoa flavor was quite strong, it took over the more subtle flavors of the tiramisu.

Still, overall, a decent dessert.
Anytime You Wish Menu.
The Anytime you wish menu had many tempting options too, and was more extensive than our previous flight.

Order in the Sky
Octopus Fritter Balls
Steamed Rice topped with Sea-bream in Japanese Dashi Broth

Light Meal
Soy Meat Fajita with Sour Cream 〜Recommendation for light vegetarian〜
Belgian Waffle with Apple Sauce & Caramel Cream
Fresh Pasta with Mushroom Cream

"Ramen" Noodles in Soy Sauce Flavored Soup
Japanese Hot "Udon" Noodles with Wild Plants

Roast Beef & Wasabi Mayonnaise Sandwich
"Sangenton" Pork Cutlet Sandwich

Cheese Selection
Assorted Cheese

Fresh Fruits
Set Menus.
And finally, a choice of Western or Japanese Set Menu.

"FUMIKO's Japanese Set Plate"
Western-style "Saikyo Miso" Grilled Salmon
Scallop with Salted Sea Urchin Sauce
Poached Garland Chrysanthemum
Japanese Clear Soup with Shiitake Mushroom & "Fu"
Steamed Rice
Japanese Pickles

"FUMIKO's Western Set Plate"
Braised Japanese Beef Cheek in Red Wine with Salad
Grape Caprese
Special Bread from MAISON KAYSER
Petit Pain d'Assas
Petit Pumpkin Ekmek
Breakfast of Champions!
Since there is no formal second meal, you can order whatever you want, be it some ramen, curry, a sandwich, a full set menu, or, in my case, um, waffles and ice cream.

This seemed the most fitting for "breakfast" since there wasn't any real breakfast items.

That said, the last chance to order was only 3.5 hours after our dinner had finished, and that was not exactly a small meal, so I wasn't remotely hungry.  But who am I to pass up waffles and ice cream?  I mean, really?

I'm glad I didn't.  This was all delicious.
Belgian Waffle with Apple Sauce & Caramel Cream.
The waffle was good.  Very good.  Borderline amazing.

It was a true liege style waffle, huge chunks of pearl sugar inside.  Yeasted, lofty, great flavor to the base.

The only reason I say it was good and not amazing is that it needed just a few more minutes in the oven.  It wasn't that hot, and was a tad bit soggy on the bottom.  But that said, it was still very, very good.  They got a good product.

On the side was a chunky apple compote that I didn't care for, and an AMAZING caramel cream.  Sweet, fluffy, absolutely delicious.  I could have eaten a bowl of it.  It was perfect to dunk my waffle in.

I devoured this, even though not hungry, and honestly, likely would have ordered a second one if there were more time remaining in the flight.
On my previous flight, I opted for decaf only since I was arriving at night, but on this flight, I was able to order the regular.

It was very, very good.  Super smooth, full bodied, nice flavor.  Really, perhaps the best coffee I've ever had on a flight.
Dean & Deluca Super Premium Vanilla Ice Cream.
The ice cream was wonderful.  It was served very cold, so it took a long time to become soft enough to actually eat, but, the quality was very, very high.

Super rich, amazing vanilla flavor, clearly, a premium product.
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