I arrive at the airport after less than 24 hours in New York. I am a tad jetlagged but manage to get to the airport on time. Today I’m flying on JAL from New York (JFK) to Tokyo (Narita). I don’t spend too much time in the Lounge (which is the Lufthansa Senator’s Lounge) and eagerly get to the boarding gate for my flight.
Japan Airlines’ 777 has only eight seats First Class seats which makes this product considerably more private than most of the other Oneworld airlines First Class cabins. The JAL First Suites are not fully enclosed but offer a decent level of privacy and on this flight there was only 2 other passengers in the cabin. The carpet is a beautiful dark red and exudes a warm Hollywood style welcome. The shell which encases the Suite is a light cream colour and is in stark contrast to the seat and ottoman which have a soft brown leather exterior. The seat converts into a fully flat bed and has a decent massage functionality.
Overall the suite is suitably comfortable, spacious and has plenty of room for a second dining companion if you’re traveling with someone. The side of the Suite closest to the window has lovely woodgrain finishes and contains some good storage areas and it contains the inflight entertainment controls.
There is a beautiful 23-inch TV and some Bose Noise Cancelling headphones to help you enjoy the inflight entertainment. The inflight entertainment control has a small viewfinder to easily navigate the range of entertainment options. I watch The Secret Life of Pets which is one of my fave movies!!
The only efficacy point is the power socket is next to the TV screen which makes it difficult to charge your phone and use it while you’re seated.
Standard overhead reading lights are built into the side of the Suite.
JAL also provided a voucher to use the Wi-Fi which was useful to stay connected with happenings on the ground. Although it does cut out quite often and isn’t particularly fast
Amenity Kit and Pyjamas
Japan Airlines partnered with Etro for the current amenity kits; the colour scheme and patterns are quite bold and unlike any other First amenity kit in the market. I have to say I prefer the Porsche Amenity Kits which JAL previous provided; but these are some of the better ones in the market as most carriers seem to be downgrading their kit.
The kits contain some perfume, lip balm and lotion. These are all with the Shantung scent and come in a small cloth drawstring bag. There is a dental kit with a mouthwash container toothbrush and toothpaste. There’s a very useful hair brush and set out other practical amenities such as earplugs, eye masks, moisture masks and tissues.
JAL do well on the amenity kit front, a second amenity kit is also provided with a special products from Shiseido. The Shiseido kit has hydrating lotion, total revitalizer and cleansing foam.
JAL provide some decent pyjamas on this flight. It’s called a Relaxing Outfit (as opposed to a “Tense Outfit”). The pyjamas are designed with the wellness focus with eco-friendly and lower levels of allergens and organic cotton. It’s not a classic or stylish design; and I certainly love the Porsche designed PJs I received on a prior JAL flight, but these are comfortable and soft and aid the sleep onboard.
Shortly after take-off the lunch service commences and I opt for the Japanese set menu.
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc (2007) Champagne.
This is the same champagne and same vintage which was served on my Qantas flight from Sydney to Los Angeles. I was ecstatic to see this onboard as I had heard the Salon was discontinued from all flights (other than those ex-Japan) and I dreaded sipping on anything other than a Blanc de Blanc on this flight (even if the other choice was Cristal).
Here are my tasting notes for that flight.
“There is expressive citrus, hints of brioche and mild notes of mint on the nose. A beautiful flourish of white peaches, minerality – a wonderful tapestry of lushness, freshness and sensual purity. It’s a dream; the reason it’s such a favourite. It’s got a little hint of floral notes and lemony mint sparkle in the finish – a truly wonderful experience.”
The first platter has a delightful medley of dishes; Grilled Flounder Roll, Grilled Lobster with Egg Yolk Vinegar, Japanese Omelette topped with Caviar, Sea-bream with Braised Soy Pulp and Fried Soft Shell Crab marinated in Vinegar Sauce.
The key with all these dishes is the quality of the seafood and the preparation. The lobster is rich and tangos well with the tangy rich egg yolk vinegar. The sweet omelette is beautifully pierced by the saline intensity of the caviar. The sea-bream is flaky and delicate and oozes in the unami of the soy pulp. The crunchy soft-shelled crab is blunted gently by the bite of the vinegar and intertwines with the lovely textural splendour of its flaky meat, soft skin and crunchy exterior. The grilled flounder is tender and has a delightful texture to finish off the plate.
All around this was a wonderful start to the lunch!
Japanese Clear Soup with Grilled Sea-bass & Winter Melon
A delicate and well-seasoned soup. The soft sea bass oozes its oils to flavour the soup. The beautiful skin retains a firmness and provides beautiful texture. The sea bass has a tender and retains its gentle touch of natural flavours notwithstanding immersion in the soup. It’s a very hearty experience but with a lightness of flavour.
Mukozuke and Azukebachi
The plate has Kelp-marinated Abalone & Salmon, Foamed Vinegar Sauce “Nube”, and Broiled Eggplant & “Somen” Noodles in Japanese Broth Jelly.
The abalone and salmon hit with their natural flavours. The dish doesn’t parlay much seasoning or culinary effort; it’s wonderful produce asserting themselves in the splendour as nature intended. The kelp marinate does show itself with a saline flow; but the salmon and abalone are the real stars.
The broth jelly contrasts with the other dish. It’s delicate and soft and the eggplant and noodles add a delicate touch but the dish is intensely crowned with the salmon roe leaves a sensational tingle when it hits the taste bud.
I continue watching The Secret life of Pets as the clouds sail past the window and it’s such a beautiful moment. Its a sensory array of experiences; the movie, the clouds, the champagne and the lunch!
Dainomono and Tomewan
The main course arrives and this the Sukiyaki Style Beef Steak with Ginger Koshikari Rice, Miso Soup and Japanese Pickles.
The beef is well seasoned and has some gentle flavours in the marinade. The beef is good quality but is more towards medium than the medium-rare I prefer. But the dish does stand on its own. The tender beef displays its natural flavour strongly, I am kinda indifferent towards the pickles but I do love the miso soup!
There’s something oh so lovely about tucking into the beef and enjoying the Chateau Larange will watching the clouds float outside the window.
Chateau Lagrange (2013), Saint Julian, Bordeaux
I switch from the Champagne for the main course. I choose the Chateau Lagrange from Saint Julian in Bordeaux. This 3rd growth cru is a pretty decent wine; I have tasted it before on British Airways and it certainly pairs well with beef dishes. However this is a much younger vintage and so I do proceed with caution.
The aroma flows nicely with cherries, cassis, earthy tones and aniseed. On the palate, there are intense red fruit flavours with sweet spice notes which linger nicely. There are some decent tannins which flowy nicely through the mouth, but I would say with a bit of extra age one could this wine being a much better pairing with the beef.
Black Sesame Pudding
I am not a huge dessert fan, but this one did the trick. It was light, creamy and very gentle on the palate.
Royal Blue Tea (Queen of Blue)
I pair the dessert with the Queen of Blue – Royal Blue Tea. I had provided a background on this tea in one of prior posts. Here it is for ease of reference.
“It is a premium Japanese tea in a wine bottle. It is made from the finest hand-picked tea leaves at Shonan Cha Kobo and is produced one-by-one. These tea leaves are very rare as they are only picked once a year during the summer time. It then takes 3-7 days for them to be soaked and dripped into the bottle.”
This is one of the rare times you will catch me tasting a non-alcoholic beverage on board, but this ones a keeper. It does pair well with the pudding. It has a gentle sweetness, soothing smokiness with some notes of subtle fruit make it the perfect sign-off for the set menu.
Having nominated the Japanese Menu, I felt a bit sad as I missed out on the Caviar Service on the Western Menu. I do ask the flight attendants if they could provide me with the caviar service too and they happily oblige.
Caviar, Egg Yolk Mascarpone Cheese Cream, Smoked Sturgeon and Potato Blini
The caviar is a dream; with its rich imperial salinity leaving an indelible impression on the palate, its a breathtaking experience. The blinis have a moist fluffy pillowy texture and proves to be a fitting bed for the caviar. The velvety egg yolk cream is a tantalising decadent experience. Its definitely something to remember!
I pair the caviar with the Cristal which proves uninspiring, so I eventually switch back to its rightful pairing of the Taittinger Comtes.
Eventually I decide to take a nap as the plane jets through the Pacific Ocean enroute to Tokyo. As the cabin is not full (like most of my other flights with JAL), the staff make-up the bed in the Suite next to mine so I could continue enjoying the dinner service and IFE.
JAL’s Airweave DUAL MODE bedding hits the spot and have a nap and wake-up feeling pretty refreshed!
Three little tasters of Scallop with Spicy Cod Roe, Seasoned Stem Lettuce and Soy-marinated Enoki Mushroom are brought out to start.
These tasters do well to whet the palate with a mix of salinity, unami and flourishing natural seafood flavours.
Japanese Set Plate
The dish has Grilled Spanish Mackerel “Saikyo Miso” Flavour, Specially Selected Fermented Soybeans, Steamed Rice, Miso Soup and Japanese Pickles.
The succulent oily mackerel has an intense flavour that pairs nicely with the mild smooth sweet notes of the Saikyo Miso. The soybeans are not particularly interesting, and I do love the warm miso soup to unwind.
I continue with the Taittinger Comtes as the flight draws to a close and pretty soon, we land in Tokyo (Narita).
Travel Video Diary
It’s a little hard to show the full extent of the suite, the Bed and all the fine dining in pictures, so I’ve compiled a little video diary of some of the highlights of the flight. Hope you enjoy it.
Background Tune is: I Got U by Duke Dumont. I do not own the rights to this song.
JAL would have to be one of my favourite First Class products – it’s certainly up there with my experience on Etihad First Class Apartments last year. The hard product may seem standard; but the suite is spacious, the IFE is easy to use and the privacy of a smaller cabin (8 suites), which is rarely full, makes for an enjoyable flight.
JAL excels in the food and beverage area; there is a full Japanese menu of quality seafood, caviar service and world class champagnes (Cristal and Taittinger Comtes), decent red wines and the Royal Blue tea. I was a bit sad they had dropped Salon Champagne from their routes outside of Japan but this should not detract from the experience. Their pre-arrival meal was also better than some main dishes I have had on other flights; it is always a culinary showcase on JAL.
The second is the amenity kit & pyjamas are better than a lot of the other carriers (indeed some airlines don’t provide these) and most airlines seem to have downgraded their product recently. I am and always have been a huge fan of their Porsche PJs and Amenity Kits and hope they bring them back soon!
Finally, the service on JAL is always perfect; I can’t think of an instance when the flight attendant was rude or for that matter forgetting a simple request. It was an extremely enjoyable flight indeed!