Friday, September 13, 2019

Astronaut Ice Cream

Astronaut ice cream  Something I haven't thought about since ... elementary school?  Basically, whenever the last time I visited a planetarium and its gift shop was.

I think I always assumed it was just a gimmick.  I mean, I love ice cream, but ... yeah.  How could this be actually tasty?

Somehow, I honestly don't remember how, I wound up with astronaut ice cream in my pantry.  It is shelf stable for a very long time.

Eventually, I tried (spoiler alert: and loved!), it.
Packaging.
"Freeze-Dried ice cream and other freeze dried foods have been used by NASA since the early days of the Apollo space program and are still used by Astronauts today on the Space Shuttle. If you're looking for an out of this world snack or party treat, this fun treat can be eaten anytime, anywhere. No refrigeration needed ever!"

The outer packaging reveals very little about what will be inside, and I wasn't quite sure what format to expect inside the foil bag. 
Mint Chocolate Chip.
"This is a new twist on the classic freeze-dried space delight. You get a double hit of flavor in one great freeze-dried treat. Truly a unique culinary experience, this delicious freeze-dried ice cream is sure to make ice cream fans happy. Official Freeze-Dried Astronaut Ice Cream is a delightful dessert anytime whether on the trail or outer space!"

Ok, this was downright fascinating, far more than I expected.  I kinda assumed this was cool for kids, and slightly novel, and I'd quickly move on.  It turned out to be fun to me too, and quite delicious.

Inside the outer bag it was wrapped in another wrapper, and then, the product itself was a solid block, or, at least it used to be, before it got all broken up.

The texture is, well, freeze dried.  Super crispy.  If I just bit and chewed, I found my brain got confused very quickly, as I was biting into something crisp, yet the sensation in my mouth was, well, creamy ice cream.  It tasted like ice cream, quite rich.  It even left my mouth coated like ice cream.  But ... it was crispy.  I was drawn in immediately.

Next I let it dissolve a bit more slowly on my tongue, rather than biting.  This was even more addicting, as it spread out into ... um, melting ice cream? Seriously.  It melted in my mouth.  But it was crispy to start, and most certainly wasn't cold.

In addition to all the fascinating textures and experiences going on, it also had flavor.  Really excellent flavor.  Minty.  Rich ice cream.  Little chocolate chips studded it, well distributed throughout.  The flavor was on point with any good mint chocolate chip ice cream.

I really truly enjoyed eating this, and I'd gladly have more.  Good for a day when it isn't "ice cream weather", but you want creamy goodness?
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Thursday, September 12, 2019

Kakigōri from Sebastian, Tokyo

Shaved ice.  Not something we have ... at all (?) in the Bay Area.  But it is everywhere in Tokyo.  The perfect treat to combat the sticky hot summer heat.

And hot summer heat it was during my visit.  I started my trip on a quest to have amazing Hokkaido milk soft serve ice cream as much as possible, but after 5 days of at least two a day, I finally was ready to mix it up.  Shaved ice didn't come to mind initially, just because it isn't something I've had much of.  In fact, I've never had the Japanese form, kakigori, before (only Korean style bingsu, like the mediocre one at Milkie & Snowie in Pasadena).

I wanted to start with the best, obviously.

My destination: Sebastian, a *very* small, *very* popular kakigori store.
Store Front.
Sebastian is located on a side street in Shibuya, a bit off the main block.

It has 10 seats.  And to get those seats, you have to show up at 10am (well, before actually), to put your name on the list for the day.  No reservations over the phone, no name on list over the phone, and no reserving, even in person, for the next day.

Um, yeah.  It is that popular.  And I knew this.  But I also knew they offered takeaway, which was my plan.
Dine-in Menu.
The menu is only in Japanese, which I knew to expect from my research.  I didn't need the menu anyway though, because I knew exactly what I wanted.

You see, Sebastian doesn't just make standard kakigori, shaved ice with some syrups and toppings.  They *do* make those, and in fact had 5 versions of it.  But they also make two additional, very special, kakigori.

The first is the strawberry brulee.  It looks like a creme brulee.  It is torched to order.  But under that brulee top is ... yes, shaved ice, fresh strawberries, and custard.  Oh my.  It looks incredible (also: huge!)

Next, the mango yogurt shortcake.  This one looks like an elaborate cake.  Frosted with whipped cream, garnished with fruit, but inside .... shaved ice, mango, mango syurp, yogurt cream .... Now that one looks incredible.

I wanted both of the special items, but alas, I knew they were both huge, and I was alone, so I had to narrow it down to just one.  I agonized over which to pick, stared at so many Instagram photos, and finally arrived, ready to order.  I had my hotel concierge call in advance to make sure these items were offered for takeout, because I was worried they were too elaborate to be takeout, and I hadn't seen any photos of them this way.  I was assured the mango one was.

So, I got there, saw the sign saying no more seating (expected), and tried to order the mango yogurt shortcake as takeout.  Not allowed.  I tried the brulee.  Not allowed.
Takeaway Menu.
Quite sad, I almost left and went on another dessert mission, but decided to stay and just get a shaved ice.  So I asked for the one shaved ice from the normal menu that sounded most interesting, with almonds, raw caramel, dark cherry, and custard.  But guess what?  Not on the takeout menu.

The takeaway menu had only 4 items, and 3 of which were also on the regular shaved ice menu (chocolate orange, berry and lemon, and one other I forget).  But they also had a mango shaved ice, a simple one, not anything like the cake.
Kitchen.
Through the takeout window I could see the action inside, with two workers building the incredible looking shortcakes and brulees (because everyone inside was ordering these, of course).  But my takeout server had her own area, with just a shaved ice machine and a few squirt bottles of toppings.

She set about making my ice immediately.  It took longer than I expected, I guess even the simple ones require a fair amount of work, close to 5 minutes?
Mango Shaved Ice.
And then this was handed over.

Wowzer.

I knew it would be huge, I had seen photos of course, but ... still nothing really prepared me for the shaved ice that was literally as big as my head.  I was told to be careful, it was going to melt quickly.  And yes, it melted extremely quickly.  It was 88 degrees after all, even though it was 6:30pm and dark.  I can only imagine what a disaster these are in the hot sun in the afternoon!

The ice was incredibly fluffy.  Light and fluffy.  Except that, of course, it was loaded with syrups.  The top half was sweetened condensed milk, creamy and quite sweet.   The bottom half, mango, also quite sweet.  And that was it.  Fruity ice and creamy ice, with a couple little red things stuck on the side.  I was hoping it would have real mango, or cream, like the cake version, but alas, just the ice.

It was good.  I liked the flavors, although it trended just too sweet for me.  The lightness of the ice was incredible.  It was really fun to eat ... while the ice lasted, which was all of ... 4 minutes?  It quickly, way too quickly, turned into a puddle of melty ice, and then, melty cold liquid.  It was still good melted, I ate the entire thing, but the last half was more like a mango smoothie, I literally was just drinking it from the cone.

Overall, I'm still glad I went, I'm still glad I tried it.  But ... I really did want to try one of the other items, and sitting inside with some climate control likely would be more successful than the hot outdoors!

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Milk Cream Craft Cafe, Tokyo

During my last visit to Tokyo, I discovered the joy that is soft cream.  That is, soft serve ice cream, as it is known in Japan.

I've always been an ice cream lover, and soft serve in particular,  and I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Japan has perfected this too (like the 10 years of development that went into cremia, the soft serve I had at Silkream).  I was planning to go back to my favorite of the soft serve places, Mother Milk Farm, but discovered (at least before I went!) that they had sadly closed down.

So I sought out another similar sounding place, Milk Cream Craft Cafe.
"Have you ever experienced the true delicious taste of fresh cream?"
With a tag line like this, it is clear what the focus is.  Cream.  I thought I had experienced the true delicious taste of fresh cream, but it turns out, I had more to learn.
Delicious.
This was very, very fresh cream. Pure, quality dairy.

Yes.
Where's the ice cream?
Navigating around in Japan can be pretty hard, but Milk Cream Craft Cafe was an easy find - with the large soft serve statue, the English signage, and, um, the cows, I knew I was in the right place.
Curb Appeal.
But to be clear, this is not actually a tacky place at all.  The curb appeal, once you get past the statues, is real.  

Large windows, bright, inviting, casual.
Tables.
I seated myself (after trying to order takeout and being denied).  I think it was ok to seat myself?

Tables were decorate with grass placemats, and came with menus and silverware all set up.  I appreciated the extra cushion at each seat!

A server quickly came over with an English menu for me, changing out the Japanese one on the table, and a glass of water.  I knew what I wanted and ordered right away.  My treat came quickly.

I was never checked in on again, and wasn't entirely sure how to pay, until I watched another pair go up to the register in front to pay when they were done.  I copied, and it seemed to  be the right thing to do.

I appreciated the entirely non-invasive, but prompt, service.
Menu.
The menu entirely revolves around fresh cream.
"Fresh cream has always been used to complement something else such as cakes or pancakes.We thought of “Starring Fresh Cream” sweets because perhaps you still don’t know about the true delicious taste of fresh cream."
You can get fresh cream (whipped) served with a light fluffy chiffon cake (and optional berries or chocolate sauce).  You can get it inside a crepe.  You can get it as a drink with coffee or tea.  As a shake.

Or, as I did, you go all in, getting a parfait, layered with the fresh whipped cream, soft cream (aka soft serve ice cream), milk pudding, tapioca, and crunchy cereal.  Parfaits are available in 3 varieties: milk, strawberry, or chocolate, where the flavor is just the drizzle that is applied over the top.
Milky Soft Milk Parfait. 780.
I picked a parfait since I wanted a chance to try their cream and the soft serve ice cream, and this seemed to be the way to do it.  I didn't want chocolate since it was evening, and the berry sauce wasn't calling out to me, so, simple milk it was.

When it arrived, it looked like a mound of whipped cream.  Which, actually, is what it was, from the outside.  Their website describes the process of creating it:
"It required blend research involving over 100 prototypes to be able to achieve the “rich flavor” and “clean aftertaste” as original creations of fresh cream with different quantities of milk fat."
The whipped cream was ... most likely the best whipped cream I've ever had in my life.  Hard to describe exactly, but, um, the flavor of the cream was so real, so ... cream-forward?  It was rich, fluffy yet dense, and slightly sweet.  I guess, "rich flavor" and "clean aftertaste" really are accurate, actually.

Truly, truly fabulous whipped cream, but even for a whipped cream lover like myself, it was a bit too much whipped cream.  To say it was generously covered is an understatement.

I'd like to subtract a fraction of a point too for the thing sticking out - a little sign that says "do not eat".  Why oh why include it then?
Soft Cream Inside!
Under the massive pile of whipped cream was the soft serve ice cream I was seeking out (known as soft cream of course).

It too was lovely.  Sooo smooth, creamy, rich, and again, incredible cream flavor.  It melted slowly, and the texture was just fantastic.

I can see how chocolate or berry sauce would help break up the slightly one-note flavor profile of cream on ice cream, but, the flavor really was so deep that I didn't mind all that much.  The drizzle of condensed milk over the top just accented it more.
Crispy Cereal.
Under the whipped cream, under the ice cream, lay two smaller layers.  One was a layer with a little bit of tapioca pudding, good for a bit of texture, and just slightly different cream component, but there certainly wasn't much of it.  I would have liked more of that, slightly less cream.

And the very base, crispy rice cereal.  I didn't really think I'd eat it, because even though I like crunch I'm fairly eh on rice cereal, but, when I had just a big bowl of whipped cream left, with some crunch, it actually worked well.  Side note: have you ever had granola or other cereal with whole milk and whipped cream and sprinkles (part of breakfast of champions)?  I do it at least a couple times of month, and always adore it.  It always makes me feel like a slight rebel (who has sprinkles for breakfast!) but it really is delicious.  Sometimes I go crazy and use chocolate milk instead.  Anyway.  In the same way that works, a bowl of whipped cream and rice cereal works.

I happily polished off this parfait, even though it was considerably bigger than I wanted given my hunger level, and even though it seemed like a daunting amount of whipped cream.  Truly delicious, and I'd gladly return, although I think I'd just get a soft cream.
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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Japan Airlines First Class, SFO-HND

Flight Details:

Flight: Japan Airlines, JL1
Route: San Francisco to Tokyo Haneda
Date/Time: August 25, 2019, 4:05pm Departure
Class: First
Seat: 1A

This was my first time flying First Class with Japan Airlines (only my 4th time ever flying First Class in general, the previous trips were with Cathay Pacific from Tokyo-Hong Kong and Hong Kong to San Francisco, and British Airways from San Francisco to London - with extremely memorable waffles!).  Like my previous First Class flights, this was an award flight, booked using my British Airways points.  I was thrilled when the availability opened up two weeks before my flight.

The experience began in the highly underwhelming Sakura Lounge at SFO, although it was nice to have access to the First Class side room, that I didn't know existed before.  Still, I quickly moved to the large, nearly entirely vacant, Cathay Pacific lounge down the hall.  You can read about my previous One World lounge visits here.

Boarding began exactly on time, and signage was clear.  We pushed back exactly on time (5 mins early).  Gotta love the Japanese precision and efficiency.

One negative is that the flight technically had wifi, but it really ... did not work.  I know people complain about in flight wifi, but this is the worst I've ever experienced.  Actually unusable.

Seat

I originally booked 2A, the only window seat available, but 48 hours before the flight, I was able to snag 1A, normally reserved for elites.
My Throne.
The seat was ... probably the best designed seat I've ever flown in.  It was clearly ridiculously spacious, but also, there was a place for ... everything.  I was also extremely comfortable, as a seat for relaxing, as a seat for dining, as a bed for sleeping.
Ottoman.
The seat is so far away from the ottoman that it is used only to extend into bed mode, not during normal seated postures.  You can storage items under it throughout the flight, including during takeoff and landing, and the space was huge.  You might even be able to fit a roller bag there?

Above the ottoman is the tray table, which is ... well, not a tray actually.  Just, a table.  It can stay fixed at the end there as a sizable place to put things, but then it slides *the entire way* to your seat!  I found this insanely awesome, as I could slide it forward between courses, it was easy to get up and have the table out, etc.  Just, so practical.
Shoe Storage.
Also under the ottoman, on the side, is a place to store your shoes, since you'll have slippers to wear.
Menu Holder / Power Bank.
Next to the table were two more amazing compartments: power and menu holder.

Yes, a compartment just for holding the menus, which also nicely fit my laptop when I was sleeping.  The power area was also well designed, with outlets and space for a phone to stay inside if you wished, but a cutout for the cords so you could use them without awkwardness.
Ledge.
The entire side of the seat is lined with a very usable ledge (I found myself putting things on it throughout the flight), including one space that is designed to be a drink rest, but I mostly used for my phone.
Compartments.
After that comes a smaller compartment that holds one of the controllers for the TV/music/etc, with a bit more additional space, that was absolutely perfect for my glasses and contacts once I went to sleep.  I'm always nervous things will fall over, but that was not a concern here at all.

And then, the biggest compartment, with the other controller for the TV, an area big enough to fit my backpack AND purse, and it had a pocket inside too for keeping thing separate.

I really couldn't get over just how well done the seat was.
What a bed!
When it came to bedtime, it went fully flat, and a mattress pad was added.  I was given my choice of "soft" or "firm", and opted for soft.

Strangely, it is just a mattress pad, no sheet or cover on it.  A duvet is provided as well, but I found it far too hot given the cabin temperature (which I did ask to turn down), and it was strangely narrow.  Minus a point on this bedding.

I was provided with 3 pillows, one was the original that came with my seat, a firm wide pillow, plus two mushier smaller pillows, one of which I used between my knees, and one I used with my head.  I always find it awkward asking for extra pillows, so I was pleased these were all provided from the start.

We were also distributed lighter, scratchier blankets when we first got underway, and I'm glad I accepted one, even though I didn't want it then, as it was at least a bit lighter.  Still, it was just far too hot on this flight.

Amenities

Waiting at my seat was the amenity kit and slippers.
Comfy.
The slippers were convenient to wear to and from the bathroom, and were fairly fuzzy and comfy..
Amenity Kit.
The kit had a number of items not really standard, including all sorts of face mask items.  I didn't use anything though, as the bathroom had toothbrushes and mouthwash and lotion in it, and I didn't really need anything else (I bring my own eye mask and ear plugs).
Pajamas.
Once I was ready, pajamas were brought out.  They pajamas were super comfortable, but fairly thick, and just too warm again, given how hot it was.

The top, long sleeved, was way too hot for the cabin temperature.
Pockets!
The pants had pockets in front and a patch pocket on the back, which I really liked.  They had a cuff at the ankle, which if they fit me properly (they were way too big), I would have loved.  If only smaller, these would be pajamas I'd gladly keep and use to replace my own at home, they were a style I really liked.

Drinks

To say the Japan Airlines drink lineup is impressive is an understatement.  Pages and pages of amazing offerings: champagne, white wine, red wine, sake, shochu, liquor, spirits, special teas and coffees ...
Drink Menu.
I got to try ... many things.  Too many things.  Oops.  Every single one was present with the bottle, given as a small pour to taste, and then a full pour.

Champagne

Champagne List.
JAL if pretty famous for the First class champagne offerings.  Out of Tokyo only, they serve Salon 2007, which I guess is very famous/expensive.  People go crazy for this.  If it was offered, I actually would have tried it, but alas, I was flying out of San Francisco.  

That said, I know the Louis Roederer Cristal 2009 was no slouche, and the woman seated next to me was clearly quite thrilled to drink it.

I skipped the champagne until breakfast though, as there were so many other things that I wanted to try.
Louis Roederer Cristal 2009.
Um.  Yeah.  So I had this when I woke up as part of breakfast.  

It ... blew me away, honestly.  I didn't think I liked champagne.  And then this happened.

It was slightly sweet, yet dry in a way I had never experienced before.  So incredibly pleasant.  So incredibly smooth.  So incredibly drinkable.

And so very perfect with my breakfast caviar.

White Wines

White Wine List.
There were four different white wines on offer, one from California, one from Australia, one from Germany, and one from Japan.  All were described as dry, and thus I skipped them too.

"The Passion of Japan"

I decided to start with sake, since I did not really want the champagne, but wanted something lighter to start the meal (lighter than red wine, that is, and the white wines all sounded dryer than I prefer).
Sake & Shochu.
 I was presented with two options, both supposed to be great sakes.  My server suggested I just try both, so, I did.  I was given a small pour of each, and then went for more of the one I liked best.

They also had a nice shochu menu, but I never made it that far.
Sake Tasting.
First up, the one I did not prefer, was the 2018 Kamoshi-Bito-Kuheiji Junmai Daiginjo Kanochi.

This is served in Michelin 3 star restaurants in Paris, according to the menu.  It was slightly harsher than the other, I think if I was thinking of it as a wine, I'd say it was bolder, and it wasn't what I wanted to ease into my meal.

Next up, the Hiroki Junmai Daiginjo.  It was lighter, smoother, sweeter.  Apparently highly sought after.  I liked it more, but I wasn't really into sake.  Perhaps I should have tried that Cristal ...

Red Wine

For red, yup, another four choices, from regions all over the world: Bordeaux, Bourgogne, California, and New Zealand.
Red Wine List.
This section had some seriously nice wines, and I gladly tried two with my meat course.
Albert Bichot Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru Les Sorbets 2016.
I started with an offering from Bourgogne France.

It was ... good.  Not too tanic, complex, bold flavor.

I didn't really get a chance to take further notes though, as I had more food arriving, and somehow failed to reflect much on it.  I know I liked it?
Ch.igai Takaha "SONO" Pinot Noir 2016.
I moved on to a California Pinot Noir, one that retails for $100 per bottle.

It too was lovely.  Not too tanic, complex, well rounded.  Perhaps a bit bolder?  I think I might have liked it even more.  Hard to say ...

Liquor & Spirit

This selection too was extensive, and any other time, I'd try things from here, but, since there were so many things I wanted to try, I didn't ever make it to cocktails or spirits.   I did finish my meal with port however, something I've learned to love the past few years.
Graham's Tawny Port 30 Years.
The port was lovely, as I expected.  Caramel-y.  Great to finish the meal with.

Coffee & Tea

Coffee / Tea / Other.
The hot tea lineup is from "Mariage Frères" Tea of France, which I know is fabulous, plus some Japanese green teas.  In addition, they have a very fancy chilled tea, ROYAL BLUE TEA® "Queen of Blue®", that is like $30 a bottle or something, and people do love.  I didn't opt for any tea however.
French Press Coffee.
I did try coffee in the "morning", as I know they serve a french press, and are known for great coffee.

I loved the mug, such a serious mug, heavy, and an amazing handle.

The coffee was indeed great, smooth, no acid.  Not the most complex, but truly enjoyable.

Food

So ... the food.  So. Much. Food.  Pages and pages of food.

The menu is designed for you to pick between a Japanese or Western meal for the first meal, basically dinner, and then order other items a la carte later, and finally, ends with a smaller Japanese or Western meal before arrival.  Since you arrive at 7pm though, it isn't breakfast.

Some of this was truly fabulous.

Dinner

The main meal, dinner, starts basically once underway, and is designed to take 1.5-2 hours.  
Food Menu.
Many courses, many things.
Japanese Menu.
The Japanese menu had sooo many things I was interested in.  Sea urchin. Lobster.  Caviar. Abalone.  Sea bass.  Sea bream.  I mean, really.  Wow.

It is served as a number of courses, the Kozara is a course of small dishes, then Owan is a soup, Mukozuke and Axukebachi follow, then the Dainomono "main" dish with Hanmono (rice course) and Tomewan (soup) , and finally, Kanmi (dessert).
Western Menu.
But the Western menu had heavy hitters as well.  Truffle.  Caviar.  Beef tenderloin. Sea bass as well.  Mango mousse.

And don't forget there is a large assortment of a la carte offerings for later as well.  We'll get to those later.
Custom Dinner: Western & Japanese.
I made my own courses for the main meal, and it seemed I was not alone.  Not that I could spy on many others, but no one picked a standard meal progression.

The woman next to me had only caviar and a cheese course (and plenty of champagne and wine).  Behind me, two guests had an appetizer from dinner menu, and then salad and noodles from the a la carte.  
Welcome Dish: Goat cheese stuffed shiitake / Orange stuffed prosciutto.
The meal experience begins with a welcome snack alongside your choice of beverage.  I wasn't expecting this dish, in addition to the extensive menu.

As I don't really like slimy mushrooms, and HATE goat cheese, I didn't try that.  I really wasn't interested in the other dish, I mean, prosciutto is fine, but, with so many amazing things coming, it seemed silly to waste my stomach space on that.

But it actually was quite good.  The citrus was quite bright, and the prosciutto had a lovely flavor.  

Soon after this, a snack basket was presented with my choice of dried beans, dried fruit, or dried seafood, all in little packages.  I picked the seafood, but decided to save it for later.
Butter / Salt & Pepper / Olive Oil.
I didn't opt for any bread, but a basket was presented with several choices, including warm garlic bread.  It all looked fine, but, I had my eyes on too many things to fill up on bread.

I did taste the olive oil, it seemed high quality.  I never needed the salt and pepper as everything was well seasoned.
Western Menu: Amuse Bouche.
"Sweet Corn Gazpacho / Truffle Popcorn."

I started with the Western amuse bouche, knowing it was more exciting than it sounded, plus, well, I do love popcorn ...

This was ... pretty eh overall.  But it looked amazing.  And yes, that was crab and truffle, not listed on the menu.

The base is a corn gazpacho that had a flavor I really disliked.  Can't describe it, I just really hated it.  It had roasted corn kernals on top too, but the flavor ... ugh.

On top of that was a mound of crab (!) that was fine, but, well, lost in the flavor of the corn gazpacho.  Bits of shaved truffle were redeeming, and I did of course find amusement in the truffle popcorn.

It sure looked like a beautiful dish though, and it sounded exactly like something I'd love, so, alas, I was sad to dislike it so.
Japanese Menu: Kozara.
Next, I went for the first course of the Japanese menu, kozara. 

This is an assortment of 5 small dishes, all but one served chilled.

It came presented with chopsticks, complete with a chopstick rest.
Japanese Omelette topped with Caviar.
I was mostly planning to skip this one, but, it was far better than I expected.  The omelette was soooo light and fluffy!  Better than nearly any tomago I've had in US sushi restaurants ... 

My third favorite item.
Horse Mackerel with Braised Soy Pulp.
Next up, horse mackerel.  3 slices.

It was fine.  The fish was cured I believe, had a nice firm texture, wasn't fishy, really, was fine, but, the soy pulp was mushy and not really that appealing.

Still, fine fish.  Forth pick.
Sea-bream Roll with Sea Urchin.
The one I was most exited for came next: uni!

But ... it was my least favorite.  By far.  It was a rolled piece of sea bream, with a tiny amount of uni hiding inside.

The sea-bream was really dried out and too firm, had an odd taste.  It came in a slightly warm broth.
Uni Inside.
The uni inside was hard.  

Not much redeeming in this one, last pick by far.
Fried White Fish marinated in Vinegar Sauce.
But this ... this was delicious.  And I know it won't sound that way.  Two pieces of some kind of white fish, that had been fried, but were served cold, and in a vinegar sauce, so, they were soggy.  I know, I know.

The flavor was incredible.  Very complex, very fascinating.  So much flavor.  I loved it.

I didn't care for the garnish, soft peppers, but, this was my absolute favorite overall.
Grilled Lobster with Egg Yolk Vinegar.
And finally, lobster!

It came as a piece of lobster, on top of a grilled slice of squash (so random!), with the egg yolk vinegar sauce on top.

The lobster was ... fine.  Kinda chewy, not really that remarkable.  I think I liked the squash more than the lobster.  But what I really loved was the egg yolk vinegar ... it was fairly mayo-like, creamy, and flavorful.  I wanted it on anything really.  Delicious.

Second favorite overall just for that sauce.
Western Menu: Hors-d'œuvre.
"Chicken Terrine & Duck Prosciutto / Pickled Baby Beets & Rhubarb Compote."

Rather than a traditional main dish, from the Western or Japanese menu, I opted for an Hors-d'œuvre next, switching back to the Western menu.  I didn't see anyone order any main dishes actually.

This dish was a mixed success.  I ordered it because I had seen photos online that I thought were of it, with a pate style terrine, so I was surprised when it was not a smooth pate.

That said, the terrine was wonderful.  I don't like chicken, but, this was flavorful, had a good texture, and I think some pistachio in it?  There was a crunch to it.

The duck proscuitto was also good, soft style, a very large piece.  I'm not sure which prosciutto I preferred, actually.  Both were good.

But the meat needed something to go with it, and I wasn't particularly into the other things on the plate.  The rhubarb compote was far too sweet.  Way way too sweet.

The pickled baby beets, a slice of red and a slice of yellow were ... eh.  But I don't like cooked beets much anyway.  I did like the hearts of palm, nice lightness.  The garnish was a bit extensive.

The little squares of ... french toast (?) I hated.  They seemed dunked in nutmeg, and the spicing just wasn't for me.  And they were soft and soggy, like cold french toast.  Not really sure what was up with those.

Overall, I'm glad I got this, I liked the meat components, but it did make me want some cheese (and of course, I could order cheese if I really wanted).
Western Menu: Dessert.
"Mango Mousse / Fruit Tart."

For dessert, I went for the western option, although it didn't sound great (the Japanese version didn't sound great either).  It was two small items.  Clearly not the focus for JAL at all, I'd consider these fairly low quality, and not really a composed dessert.

I did ask about the a la carte sweets, such as ice cream, but it was just Haagen-Daz vanilla, so not particularly exciting.  The other a la carte items had caffeine (chocolate), so, I held off on those.

The mango mousse was ... well, a cake.  The base was a dry boring cake.  Above that a fruity mango mousse, topped with a mango gel.  It was ... just really mediocre.  Sweet.  Fruity.  But not really good.

The other item, a tiny fruit tart.  Never something I actually like.  Tart shell, pastry cream, blackberry/raspberry/blueberry/kiwi. 
I liked it more than the mousse though.  

The tart shell was soft, not soggy, but soft.   Not what you expect for a tart shell, but I liked it more that way, basically just a sweet cookie.  The pastry cream was not tasty - slight lemon flavor and odd texture, grainy.  Did not like.

But the fruit was delicious!  Super juicy, flavorful.  I really liked the fruit.  Surprise hit.

A la carte

And then, pages and pages of a la carte offerings.  Many sounded great.  
A la carte mid-flight meals/snacks.
Sushi, that is actually supposed to be high quality.  A trio of dishes including uni.  Curry they are famous for.  Noodles.  Pasta.  Simple salad and soup.  Dessert items.  Cheese.  Fruit.  
Second Meal Set Menus.
And then, a choice of set menu, Western or Japanese again, as your pre-arrival meal, if for some reason you needed/wanted another full meal at this point.

If I needed more food, which I can't imagine, the crab cakes certainly called out, and the yogurt would be breakfast appropriate, but, I skipped this, and opted to make my own breakfast-meal.

And much like dinner, I was not alone.  I didn't see anyone get the set meal.  Next to me, the woman got a salad, sushi, and noodles.  Behind me, someone else got sushi too.  I'll admit, the sushi really do look fresh, and the salad looked really fresh and crisp too.
"Breakfast".
I opted to ... reserve caviar from dinner for breakfast, have a hot dessert from the "light meal" menu, and then, because I had slight FOMO, added on one more "snack" course.  Oh, and I ordered chocolates, coffee, and, um, Cristal.  Because I could.

All of these dishes were the best of the meal, each one blew away the dinner offerings.  The drinks blew away the dinner drinks.  And that isn't the say the dinner offerings weren't good, these were just *outstanding*.
Western Menu: Hors-d'œuvre.
"Caviar: Egg Yolk Mascarpone Cheese Cream, Smoked Sturgeon, Potato Blini."

To get "breakfast" started, I had ... yup, the caviar course from the Western dinner, which I had reserved for me to have to breakfast.  I really thought it sounded better than the other offerings, and was quasi breakfast-dinner appropriate? I learned this trick when I flew on Cathay Pacific First Class, and *wished* I had done it.

I was truly stunned by how much I enjoyed this.  Uh, pancakes and eggs for breakfast, right?

The blini weren't particularly special, and were cold, but were the appropriate base for my incredible bites.

I also didn't really care for the smoked sturgeon, two chunks, firm, meaty, and a bit fishy.  I think actually with dinner I might have wanted it, but, for breakfast, it was a bit intense for me.  I do like that style of fish, so I wasn't just being averse in general.

The egg yolk mascarpone was awesome.  Really, really awesome.  Creamy.  Rich.  So flavorful.  Absolutely perfect with the blini and caviar.  So much better than most standard accompaniments of chopped egg and creme fraiche, really!  It really made the dish.

And of course, the caviar, a full jar, with a mother of pearl spoon.  Um, yes.
Perfect, perfect bite.
A blini, loaded with egg yolk mascarpone and caviar, with a swig (er, delicate sip?) of Cristal alongside, was one of the best things I've consumed in a very, very long time.
Light Meal: Chocolate Bread Pudding Raspberry Sauce.
But you know I'm a sweet tooth so of course I wanted a chance to try the chocolate bread pudding, from the "light meal" section.

It was served warm, and was far better than the desserts from the main meal, and far better than expected.

The style of bread pudding I like, with chunks of bread (brioche?), slightly crisp top, and very moist interior.  The base didn't really have any particular flavor, but the melty chocolate on top was nice.

I found myself really wanting whipped cream, or actually, I really should have added the vanilla ice cream.  Next time.

The raspberry sauce on the side was thick, and not too sweet, and had no seeds (yes!), but I didn't like it with the bread pudding itself, as chocolate and raspberry aren't the pairing I really like, I find they muddle each other.  I did eat the sauce by the spoonful though, just on its own.  It too would have been great spooned over vanilla ice cream.

I paired it with the quite good coffee, and it really completed the meal.

Overall, this was really quite good, and I would have enjoyed as a dessert after a meal as well, but it was perfect in the "morning", and filled the role of breakfast carbs like pancakes, waffles, or french toast would.
Snack: Japanese Delicacies.
"Spicy Cod Roe with Grated Radish / Soy-marinated Tuna / Soy-marinated Sea Urchin."

But ... at last minute, after my sweet course, I decided to order one more thing.  Not because I was hungry, but because it was my last chance!  Plus, the lady next to me ordered 3 courses for breakfast (salad, sushi, noodles), so why shouldn't I?

I had been eyeing the "Japanese Delicacies" the moment I saw the menu, from the a la carte section, considered a "snack", but I had no idea were in my meal to fit it in.  I think it would have been better as part of my dinner lineup, rather than the kozara.  Next time, I think I'd consider salad + the Japanese Delicacies + sushi rather than the kozara, for the lighter fish course?  

Anyway, this was a trio of chilled dishes.

First up, the spicy cod roe with grated diakon.  The cod roe was fine, but not particularly spicy.  Flavorful, but not spicy really.  I didn't care for the grated diakon under it however, it was very bitter.  Second favorite item.

Next, soy-marinated tuna, which turned out to be minced tuna, not nigiri or sashimi as I was hoping.  I didn't care for it, but I never really care for raw tuna anymore.  On top I think was a dot of soy pulp I had in the kozara course?  This one wasn't for me, my least favorite, and I didn't finish it.

But finally, the reason I ordered it, really: soy-marinated sea urchin.  Yes, another attempt at uni on the flight.

And this one delivered.  The marinate accented the uni nicely, and the serving of two pieces was perfect.  Both were fresh, briny, and considerably better than I thought possible on a flight.  Wonderful.  Favorite dish of the trio.

I'm glad I got this dish, for the uni alone.  When I rank the overall meal, the uni falls probably third place overall, after the caviar/mascarpone, and after the bread pudding.  Above everything else savory I had in my dinner meal.
Chocolates.
The only thing I didn't really care for?  The chocolates.  They had caramel inside, thick caramel.  Just not my thing.
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