Japan Airlines (First Class) Tokyo to Paris

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THE LOUNGE

I am off to Paris for the next leg of my journey and to commence my European adventure. I am flying from Haneda to Paris (CDG). I head over to the JAL First Class Lounge. I have reviewed the lounge a few years ago (you can check out the link here) and it hasn’t changed much. It is a lovely spacious lounge with all the amenities you’d expect from JAL. There is an extensive buffet with fine wines, champagnes and spirits and a range of different areas / rooms for a mix of business, leisure and relaxation.

One of my favourite rooms is the champagne and sake room with Riedel glassware to match.

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There is a collection of aviation mementos and memorabilia in the Gallery Room.

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The perfect games room for an unwind before the flight

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I decide to have a selection of food from the buffet and some champagne before my flight. The views of the tarmac are quite amazing from this lounge.

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I select the miso soup, pickled vegetables, a selection of pintxos, smoked salmon, sweet omelette, cod roe and scrambled eggs to start the day.

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Eventually the boarding call chimes and I’m off to board my flight to Paris!

THE SUITE

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.

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I reviewed the exact same plane / product on my flight before from New York to Tokyo, so for the specifics on the suite and IFE please refer to that post here.

AMENITY KIT AND PYJAMAS

We are provided the same amenity kit and pyjamas as the prior flight. Here are some snaps of those. You can read the full review of them on the prior post (link above).

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LUNCH

Shortly after take-off the lunch service begins. I watch Disney’s Tangled for most of the flight; its such a beautiful fairytale.

The Salon (2007) Cuvee ‘S’ Le Mesnil Blanc De Blancs

JAL serve the best champagne of all the First Class products in the world. Salon is a rare champagne which is made from a premium grand cru chardonnay from selected vintage years. Unfortunately due to the rarity of the champagne and the fact that an insufficient of bottles are produced for all of JAL’s routes, JAL now only offers the champagne on flights ex-Japan.

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Here is a brief summary / history of the champagne from when I first tried it a few years ago.

“Salon is only produced in years when the harvest is considered to be of sufficient quality for release and even then it is only released for consumption once it has reached full maturity (typically 10+ years). Between 1900 to 2000 only 37 vintages were released by Salon. The first vintage in 1905 was only used by founder, Eugene-Aimé Salon for his friends and special guests at dinner parties. In 1920, under the pressure from his friends in high French society, the founder agreed for the 1911 vintage to be sold to the public. It is a Champagne house shrouded in secrecy with the allure created by its exclusiveness. It has survived two world wars (well almost, Hitler actually stole a number of bottles of the 1928 vintage), a great depression, the transition from the third French republic to the fifth, two champagne wars, a global financial crisis and the technological revolution but its reputation and style remains unchanged. Salon was the first Champagne house to exclusively use Chardonnay (blanc de blanc style) without the customary blending of Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier. All Chardonnay grapes are sourced from the town of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger from the same vineyards (sans one which was sold to Krug) as the first vintage for consistency and quality.”

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The aromas are fresh with lovely floral notes, some light pear and toasted brioche which seduce the nasal senses. On the palate a richness of tart citrus, white pepper and nuttiness intertwined in beautiful fresh minerality flow through pierced with the tingle of the bubbles on the tongue. The crisp acidity is assertive but flows effortlessly. This is a symphony of balance and richness which leaves me simply breathless.

Amuse Bouche 

Amatoro Pork Rillettes

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The rillettes have a smokiness and a creamy flow to kick-off proceedings. There are little “stringy” parts of the pulled pork mixed in the cream to provide a lovely textural sensation on the palette. The crisp bread is a lovely textural contrast to the rillettes and the perfect bed for each mouthful of rillettes.

For those of you who may not have tried it before Amatoro pork is in the Shikoku Area in Japan and is premium product within Japan. It was quite a treat to have it onboard.

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Hors D’oeuvre

Unfortunately this is a full flight and JAL only stock two bottles of the Salon which are fully consumed before the next course. While I do sigh with sadness and a little bit of anger at my fellow passengers, I am largely responsible for the depletion of the Salon supplies. However the next champagne is equally good; its the Taittigner Comtes.

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc (2007) Champagne

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This is the same champagne I had on my flight to Tokyo; so here are my tasting notes:

“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.”

I select two dishes for this course; the first is the Caviar with Egg Yolk Cream & Crispy Rice Wafers. 

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The splendour of imperial salinity, the grandeur of its slimy pod like texture and sight of its dark translucent colours is what leaves a lasting imprint on the senses from this dish. The crisp rice crackers are nice, but I do prefer the bilinis which they served on the prior flight. The velvety egg yolk cream is decadent but leaves sufficient room for the star of the dish to shine.

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Steamed Abalone and “Imakane” Potato with Abalone liver Sauce

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The dish is driven by the distinctive impressionable flavour of abalone. The rich liver sauce reinforces the strength of the main ingredient. The potato provides a nice softness of flavour to balance the abalone as do the beans and other vegetables. The texture of the abalone and beans provide a nice contrast to each other and round out the dish nicely.

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Main Course 

Steamed Lobster, Seasonal Seafood & Vegetables

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This is a specialty regional Provence dish with some JAL customisations. It’s served in a bag which is emptied gently onto the plate. It’s just light juices of seafood and light oils and seasoning; nothing heavy. The seafood does the dancing and is the star attraction of the dish. The succulent lobster shines with its strong natural flavours, the octopus is equally assertive and there is a light flakey white fish which adds some nice texture. The hearty spring vegetables round out the dish nicely.

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Dessert

Sweet Corn Sorbet and Coffee Gelee

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This dish is a textural, temperature and flavour medley; you have the crunchy corn, the delicate creamy corn ice cream, the chilled snowy granita, the crisp corn praline; all imbued with a sweetness to match. Then there is the dark bitter slimey coffee jelly which grips the dish in contrast to the corn elements. It’s quite a dessert.

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I pair this with the Queen Royal Blue Tea (which you can see next to the champagne). It has a gentle sweetness, soothing smokiness with some notes of  subtle fruit make it the perfect sign-off for the set menu.

To finish I have some lovely macaroons from the famous chocolatier Jean-Paul Hévin.

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THE BED

After that leisurely lunch, I decide to have a nap before we land. I am pretty tired, so I ask the flight attendants to make the bed. On all my prior flights on JAL the cabin has been virtually empty (with only 2 or 3 passengers) so the flight attendants have typically made the bed in the suite next to me (which has its benefits in that you can continue watching the IFE undisturbed). The benefit today is that the bed is next to the window which has some pretty stunning views of the oceans and continents below us.

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PRE-ARRIVAL LUNCH

I awaken from my flight to find out that the Taittinger has also run out. I take my blame for the depletion of that fine vintage too. I am offered the Delamotte which is an okay champagne and the lesser cousin of the Salon.

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Assorted Japanese Brochettes

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The brochettes which are skewers of chicken thigh with ‘Tare” sauce, Chicken breast with Mustard and Omelette with Green Onion are decent and a nice way to start the pre-arrival lunch proceedings.

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I think I’m done with the champagne and so I opt to switch to the red wine; Chateau Lagrange (2013), Saint Julian, Bordeaux.

I had this on the flight before, so here is my tasting note:

“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.”

JAL Original Ramen Noodles in Soy Sauce Soup

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The ramen on JAL is the epitome of comfort food; hot broth, full of unami and purely slurpable. And given the other passengers have their noise cancelling headphones on its perfectly okay to slurp.

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Thick Omelette Sandwich with Truffle and “Sangeton” Pork Cutlet Sandwich

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This dish is a treat; the pork cutlet sandwich is delicious which tender pork and a rustic crusted batter with a smokey BBQ sauce. It hits the spot. The sandwich that is particularly decadent is the omelette with truffles; there’s the silky sweet smooth egg omelette and the shavings of deep earthy black truffles which make for the perfect final dish to sign-off this flight.

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Soon after I finish this dish, the flight prepares to land in Paris and the views of the French countryside are so beautiful.

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TRAVEL VIDEO DIARY

It’s a little hard to show the full extent of the suite, the Bed, all the fine dining and champagne 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: Maybe I’m Amazed by Paul McCartney. I do not own the rights to this song.

Overall

JAL would have to be one of my favourite First Class products and this flight is no exception. There is a consistency of service like no other and there is a culture of being eager to please the customer which is sometimes lost on other premium carriers.

JAL offer one of the best food and beverage onboard; I had the full Japanese menu of quality seafood, from abalone, to lobster and caviar service and world class champagnes, decent red wines and the Royal Blue tea. Their pre-arrival meal was also an absolute stand out; truffle egg sandwiches and premium ramen.

I have to make a special mention of the Salon. This is probably the best champagne in the world and JAL serve it on their flights departing from Japan. It is a testament the approach that JAL take to the food and beverage onboard that they provide such a premium product for its passengers.

The suite is very spacious, the IFE is easy to use and the privacy of a smaller cabin (8 suites) is a plus although on this flight the cabin was full. The amenity kit & pyjamas are better than a lot of the other carriers (indeed some airlines don’t provide these in First Class anymore) and the lounge in Haneda is one of the better lounges out there. It was an amazing flight.