I head off to the boarding gate, leaving the beautiful JAL First Class Lounge behind me (you can check out my review of the lounge here) and head to the aircraft for the journey onto Hong Kong.
The First Suite on Cathay Pacific is amazing. The surfaces are finished with beautifully polished grained wood, the seat is very comfortable and extremely spacious. I haven’t actually measured each of the first class seats I have been on, but I am pretty sure these have to be the widest seats as you could easily fit two people on it. The TV screen is quite wide and there is a sizeable hidden coat rack for you to store your scarves and coats. There is a beautiful flower on the side each suite for a touch of aesthetics.
Once I settle into my seat, I am offered a glass of Champagne to start. It is another Blanc de Blanc and I simply cannot resist.
Amour De Deutz Blanc de Blanc (2005)
This champagne is a lovely expression of richness in flavour. Wonderful perfumed floral aromas with some notes of stewed peaches exude from the glass from the very first pour. It is well balanced with intense citrus fruit flavours, fresh acidity and a sparkling minerality which lingers on the palate.
Soon we have take-off and I have another pour of the Champagne after the seat belt sign has been turned-off along some bites. The sense of soaring above the fluffy white clouds in the deep blue skies as you glide across the oceans leaves you with such a tremendous sense of awe even if you are a seasoned flyer. The view is simple but so beautiful.
Then eventually the lunch service commences. There is a choice of a standard three course lunch menu or a seasonal Japanese Menu in traditional Kaiseki style (tasting menu). I opt for the Japanese Menu.
The sushi is the way nigiri sushi is meant to be – fresh seafood, with the vinegar bite of the rice washed down with the champagne.
Simmered Prawn, Salmon and Sea Bream Egg-Yolk Sushi, Fried Lotus Root with Spicy Cod Roe, Steamed Fish Paste and Pike Conger Roe with Carrot, Black Beans served with a Green Apple Liqueur
The dish ticks the aesthetics box with wonderful bright colours and perfect plating. The simmered prawn is succulent and parlays its natural flavour effortlessly. The salmon and sea bream egg-yolk sushi is a combination of rich flavours and creaminess velvety textures. The roe dishes have the intense flavour of the salty sea with a grainy texture to match. The black beans add a fermented flavour to cleanse the palate at the end and the green apple liqueur provides a lovely signature to end the course.
Braised Dish and Clear Soup
Fried Bean Cured Rolled with Zenmai Vegetables, Arrowhead, Shimeji Mushroom, Nabana Green, Carrot Flower and Ginan Sauce
Sea Bream covered with Yoshino-Kudzu Starch, Carrot, Radish and Chopped Chive
As you can see the from above, I am watching the Minions movie again while going through the lunch menu.
The braised dish (above) is very much about fresh vegetables with the saline kick of the braise sauce paired with a fried bean curd. The texture and flavour of the vegetables and bean curd make for a very filling and enjoyable taste experience.
The clear soup is a pure delight. The bream is flaky and soft with the salt and flavour of the skin being a dominant force in the dish. The Yoshino-Kuzu starch gives the soup a translucent look with some light sweetness and provides thickness of consistency. The soft carrot, radish and chives are good accompaniments to the dish. A very hearty and enjoyable fare indeed.
Having paired all the courses so far with the Champagne (and it did actually work quite well with some minor exceptions), I decide to switch wine for the main course. The menu tells me that there are some promotional wines from Pessac-Léognan. I ask for the selection, and I am told they are out of stock, much to my disappointment. Following some discussions, I settle on the Marchesi De’ Frescobaldi Mormoreto (2010) from Tuscany, Italy. The wine does eases the disappointment as this wine shines very well. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc with small addition of Petit Verdot. The wine has aged further than its 2010 vintage would indicate, there are still very bright berry fruit flavours (notably raspberries) however they have made way for lovely earthy notes of truffle, menthol, chocolate and leather. The wine displays good layers of flavour and is probably more suited to the beef dish in the main course than the rest of the dishes.
Hot Dish: Grilled Amberjack in Yan-Yaki Style, Grilled Beef with Sesame Sauce and Yuzu Citrus Rind Compote
Side Dish: Surf Clam with Egg-Yolk Vinegar Sauce, Marinated Carrot and Radish with Sweet Vinegar and Pickled Cucumber
Noodle: Udon Noodles with Braised Fried Bena Curd with Sweet Soy Sauce, Wakame, Seaweed. Chopped Chive and Wasabi
Rice served with assorted Pickles and Miso Soup
So where do I start… it is quite a feast!
The noodles (left dish) are a ying and yang with the sweet soy, bean curd, intermingled with the saline taste of the seaweed and then the harsh bite of the wasabi. The noodles themselves are soft and slimy making the dish one of taste and textural contrasts.
The miso soup (right dish which is covered) is calm and gentle with a beautiful sweet salty flavour and the pickles are lovely palate cleansers.
So we get to the “Surf & Turf”. The amberjack is soft, velvety and flaky and just melts in your mouth with a smoky residue from the grill. The beef on the other hand is full of its natural juices with a good touch of seasoning. Both dishes are balanced with a somewhat sweet sesame sauce which is a delight. The yuzu compote adds a bit more sweetness with a mild zest to finish things off.
The side dish of surf clam is an interesting one. The surf clam has a very noticeable saline flavour which pairs nicely with the egg yolk vinegar and the vegetables in the dish do provide some nice crunch but really the dish was all about the surf clam.
I decline the dessert menu from the Japanese Kaiseki and opt for a dessert from the normal lunch menu which proves more appetising.
Sweet Potato and Apple Cake with Green Tea Sauce, Fresh Berries and Sesame Tuile
The cake is soft, fluffy and creamy with the lovely apple flavours streaking through the cake. The green tea sauce adds a mild sweet bitterness to balance the flavours and the crunch of the sesame tuile is a welcomed texture contrast. The berries probably didn’t need to be there but they give a sense that you’re being healthy even when you’re not.
I have a coffee to finish-off – the coffee is from illy which is one of my favourites.
As we head into landing, I watch a movie and continue to nurse my wine. It is a lovely sensuous wine to drip through the tongue over the course of a long afternoon.
I have a little nap as the afternoon drags on in the beautiful suite.
Finally the wonderful waters of Hong Kong show themselves and we head in for touchdown.
Now for the long transit before I head onto Singapore.
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