United Airlines SAN to SFO
Hyatt Regency SFO
United Airlines Global First Lounge
ANA First Square SFO to NRT
Park Hyatt Tokyo Park View Room
Kamakura and the Great Buddha
Thai Airways First Class on the A380
Best Western Premier Amaranth Suvarnabhumi Airport
Royal Orchid Lounge and Spa at Bangkok
Thai Airways Business Class BKK to CGK
NH7 San Francisco SFO – Tokyo Narita NRT
STD-STA: 1225 – 1525 (+1)
Actual: 1307 – 1502 (+1)
Yes, I am really excited to be back onboard ANA’s First Class, as I am a fan of ANA and their First Class offering. So that means I was early to arrive at the gate as they have not even commenced boarding. As usual, those with special needs were allowed to board first, and next comes the First Class passengers. There was 2 Asian businessman standing in front of me who would also be seated in First Class. If I remember correctly there would be another passenger in First but that’s about it.
As I boarded the plane, I received a pleasant welcome and was directed to my seat. Since it is summer time and I had no jacket or outerwear, there was no attendant who came with clothes hangers. They did offer to help with the luggage but it was a simple task to place it on the overhead compartments, or in my case I could just slide it under the seat. That’s the whole part of being seated in First, no lack of space for baggage!
When I got settled down on my seat, the chief purser Y. Wakaki welcomed me and enquired for my drink choices. And ANA has now provided even champagne as a pre-departure beverage. On my previous flight into USA with ANA First, they did offer drinks but not any alcoholic beverages. A glass of Krug with the latest Rimowa-branded amenity kit was a fitting photo to represent ANA’s First Class I guess! The lead attendant serving the First Class cabin with the purser H. Okada was the one serving the champagne.
As an added bonus all the other 3 passengers were seated at the other half-section of the First Class cabin, as I was the only one seated in the ‘starboard’ side of the plane. And the First Class seats here are a reason for the title, as I did not really get a ‘suite’, not even in the hotels I stayed at in Japan, but as I mentioned before I liked the comfort of the seat and it was all that matters in the end.
The lead attendant then returned again with a tray full of amenities and it included oddities such as the ‘sleep support system’, ‘face mask’, ‘face and body sheet’ and ‘leg refreshing sheet’. While unique, these items are supposed to add to passenger’s wellbeing during the flight. The sleep support system is actually a small card with a square that could be pinched to emit the scent of lavender that should enable passengers for a better sleep. The tray also includes useful stuff like customs and immigration forms for Japan-bound passengers. It is all these little details that I actually like ANA as an airline, and while she was here, I took the chance to ask for playing cards and postcards. When she returned it was with 2 postcards in hand, depicting ANA’s new 787 and a gold-liveried 737.
In between the attendant also returned with a selection of newspapers and magazines, along with a hot towel. After filling out the immigration form on the wonderful pull-out table, I took more photos around the cabin and checked out the rest of the stuff on the seat including the blanket, a pair of slippers, Sony noise-cancelling headphones and pyjamas. The purser came back to enquire if I would like to change to my pyjamas before take-off. Since I wanted to have a meal, I would just change into the pyjamas when I wanted to take a rest.
The taxi to the runway was short compared to waiting times at LAX. Along the ride to the runway, I managed to do more plane-spotting. This was when I was wishing that the First Square actually has all 3 windows accessible to passengers! Shortly after, we were airborne with fantastic views of San Francisco. With it being a clear day, I was also able to spot the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge. Though once again, I had to stretch out my hands and be a contortionist to take photos out of the windows, all because of the compartments on the right side blocking the window views. But at least I was on the ‘right’ side indeed since the views out of SF was spectacular on that day!
There was some passenger announcement from the Captain who apologized for the delay though he indicated we are still scheduled to arrive in Tokyo on time. While most airlines might just ignore the delay at pullback since it is an international long-haul flight on a widebody jet, ANA follows the Japanese culture at apologizing for even the slightest delay. And seated up front, I do not mind the delay at all! With all that being said, the flight attendant appeared again serving another hot towel, presented me with the menu and asked me for my beverage choice. I ordered the aromatic kabosu drink and with an orange juice, expecting the special Satsuma mandarin juice. She then came back with 2 glasses of beverage and the amuse bouche.
The menu for today’s flight were:
Inventive, gracious, haute cuisine with a hyperfocus on seasonal eating.
The finest ingredients are carefully selected from the fare of the day.
Enjoy flavor highlights from a medley of seasonal delicacies.
Boiled bok choy and quick-seared scallop soaked in seafood broth
Grilled squid with egg yolk and pickled red turnip
Simmered ivory shell in soy-based sauce
Fishcake with sweet corn
Asparagus and bacon roll
Preserved firefly squid in soy sauce
Ice fish wrapped in bean curd crepe
Japanese vermicelli with plum flavor
Quick-poached jumbo shrimp
Quick-seared sea bream
Deep-fried shrimp fishcake with grated daikon radish
Quick-seared beef with sesame and ponzu citron soy sauce
Grilled pomfret with saikyo miso taste [220 kcal]
Onboard-steamed rice (Toyama Yumegokochi), miso soup and assorted Japanese pickles
Three varieties of amanatto—Sugar-glazed chestnuts, toroku beans and sweet potatoes
Refined, contemporary European cuisine. Specialties from our chef,
prepared with seasonal ingredients handpicked at the peak of freshness.
Caviar with traditional garnish
Crabmeat and apple salad with cocktail sauce
Roasted duck with orange dressing
Served with a choice of dressings—Japanese yuzu citron, tomato or creamy black pepper
Fillet of beef steak with Provence-style [394 kcal]
Sauteed Chilean seabass with basil clam sauce [423 kcal]
Veal cutlet with mustard sauce [453 kcal]
Selection of breads Please choose from four kinds of breads to suit your taste.
Served with flavorful premium Isigny butter or extra-virgin olive oil
Camembert Maytag blue Comté
Assorted ice cream and sherbet
Chocolate mousse cake with raspberry sauce
Warm apple tart tatin with vanilla ice cream
Selection of fresh seasonal fruit
Please be sure to taste our carefully prepared cocktail snacks —
perfect for accompanying your choice of alcoholic beverage.
Fishcake with kombu kelp
Mullet roe cured with soy-based sauce
Three kinds of deep-fried fishcakes
Grilled chicken teriyaki
We invite you to enjoy light dishes whenever you wish.
You’ll find these dishes are a delicious follow-up to alcoholic beverages.
Hot Japanese udon noodles garnished with chikuwa fishcake tempura and wakame seaweed
Quik-seared salmon and salmon roe served over steamed rice
Tea-and-rice with salt-pickled takana green
IPPUDO “FURUSATO” (soy sauce) ramen
Potato and leek potage
Bagel sandwich—Grilled chicken, bacon, tomato, lettuce and tartar sauce
Summer vegetable keema curry
A light menu for your refreshment before arrival.
Choose either Japanese or European.
Petite Japanese course
Kobachi Simmered semi-dried daikon radish in soy-based sauce
Shusai Salt-grilled Spanish mackerel [150 kcal]
Steamed rice, miso soup and assorted Japanese pickles or rice porridge
Accompaniment for steamed rice Choose from three condiments.
Natto (fermented soybeans)
Dried bonito flakes with ginger flavor
Petite European course
Main dish Seafood paella [585 kcal]
Accompanied with flavorful premium Isigny butter and
a choice of strawberry confiture, marmalade or honey
Selection of fresh seasonal fruit
Crisp brown rice flakes with milk
Take care not to swallow fish bones found in the dishes above.
Today’s amuse bouche comprises of salmon layered with cream cheese, seared mushrooms, pork liver with jalapeño, and yuzu cheese breadsticks. I did not like the pate of pork liver at all but loved the breadsticks which was crunchy and full of flavour. The breadsticks are a common feature in all of the amuse bouche, though fortunately the pate isn’t. While the kabosu tasted fantastic, the orange juice turns out to be like any other orange juice in any other airline. Thus I enquired if this was the special orange juice from Japan. As it turns out it wasn’t but having rectified that, the attendant ensured I would get the special orange juice during the meal which actually was sweeter and a delight to have. Definitely beats the crap out of Tropicana orange juices!
Meanwhile the beverage menu is as follow:
Krug Grande Cuvée
pinot noir / pinot meunier / chardonnay
Clos Pegase Mitsuko’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2010
Carneros/Napa Valley, California, U.S.A.
Chablis 1er Cru Mont de Milieu 2010 Maison Pierre Ponnelle
Chablis, Burgundy, France
Rüdesheimer Berg Roseneck Spätlese 2008 Weingut August Kesseler
Avondale Anima 2010
Paarl, South Africa
Stonestreet Monument Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
Alexander Valley, California, U.S.A.
La Follette Sangiacomo Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010
Sonoma Coast, California, U.S.A.
Justin Reserve Tempranillo 2010
Paso Robles, California, U.S.A.
Bramasole Cortona 2008 La Braccesca
Cortona, Tuscany, Italy
Graham’s 30 Years Old Tawny
Prestige Sake and Shochu
Rokkasen Junmai Hitotoki
Tohokuizumi Junmaiginjo Yamadanishikijunmai
Takahashi Shuzoten (Yamagata)
Suzuki Shuzoten Nagaigura (Yamagata)
Kakutama Plum Wine
Satasouji Shouten (Kagoshima)
Murao Shuzo (Kagoshima)
Satoh Shuzo (Kagoshima)
Asahi Shuzo (Kagoshima)
Mikan Fruit Juice: “Satsuma Mandarin Juice”
There was a whole lot coffee and tea varieties to choose from that seems to be standard on ANA’s menu so I would not list the whole menu but they were one of the most drink list I have ever seen on any airline.
There was quite a long break between the amuse bouche and the main courses which could be due to the long time I took to enjoy the amuse bouche while choosing the movie I would have with the meal service. I eventually settled on the ‘One Piece Z’ animated film since I did follow the comic book series to a certain episode.
Having picked the Kaiseki meal again since the western choices did not appeal to me, the service started with the Zensai and Sakizuke. The sakizuke of bok choy and scallops was like a Chinese starter and it suited my palate. As usual though, the zensai is the star of the meal. I liked the variety of flavours it provides with the grilled squid with egg yolk and pickled red turnip was my favourite. The adventurous tasting one in this plate was the preserved firefly squid in soy sauce. It has again a slimy taste not unlike that of oyster. I have to mention again that the zensai has so many flavours in one plate that there will always be something one likes in the dish.
While serving the zensai and sakizuke, I forgot to mention that I also wanted the caviar and this was served next after the zensai. Compared to the caviar I had on my previous flight out of Japan, the one provided out of the States tastes nicer. It was a different supplier as I took photos of both caviar courses and compared them. The taste was slightly sweeter in today’s caviar and the texture was more palatable.
The next course was back to the Kaiseki and the nimonowan was served. This dish created a buffer between courses and refreshes the palate. I also enjoyed this broth of ice fish wrapped in bean curd crepe served with rice vermicelli in plum flavour. The sour taste of the vermicelli was just right and it was a very smooth and light dish that aims to tingle the taste buds for what is to come next.
And next is the 3 variety of otsukuri or quick seared seafood. Today’s selection comprises of quick poached jumbo prawns, sea bream and albacore. Surprisingly the prawns was the nicest but there was only one piece of it. The albacore was a total failure I think since it is very dry and does not seem fresh at all.
The next course was the main course and for this flight the attendant asked if I wanted the rice and miso soup together. Since I was asked, I requested for half portion of rice. All of the remaining courses was served together on the tray. The fried fish cake with daikon radish was wonderful and tasted like fried fish balls common in many East Asian cuisine, which is a street food, and once again shows how kaiseki cuisine does not always use expensive ingredients but utilize what is best for a particular season. The seared beef was served cold and slightly overcooked, while the pomfret was sweet and tasty but it was not as good as the tilefish I had earlier this year. It was also interesting to note the use of beef in sunomono or even featured in a Kaiseki cuisine.
As the attendant returned to clear the meal tray, she enquired if I would like dessert, and I ordered the western dessert on top of the Japanese amanatto. The mango sorbet and vanilla ice cream was served first and while it was good, I was slightly disappointed there was no more Pierre Hermé dessert creations on offer for the flight, since on my last flight with NH F, that was the best dessert I ever had in a plane! The amanatto was enjoyed with a cup of Japanese green tea to end the meal. It was another satisfying meal though the service was slightly rushed and it just didn’t feel as splendid this time round. Which was odd considering this was a day flight.
After a hearty meal, it was time to walk it off by going round the plane. First stop was the small business class cabin which was quite full. In between the business cabins is a large galley with a snack bar. I guess I know now where to get small bites to enjoy with the inflight entertainment on ANA. The ‘sleep support’ system and other amenities are also provided in a small basket.
The main business class cabin onboard the 777-300ER is very huge, and while it had a healthy occupancy, there was a few empty seats here and there. I picked one empty seat by the window and tried out the various seat functions. Personally I like the colour of the cabin as the white and blue reminds me of the view outside. It was also more striking and brighter than the grey used in many Business Class cabins. Thus the whole seat felt more spacious. I compare this to Asiana’s ‘Quadra Smartium’ business class seats on their 777 which also has the same staggered 1-2-1 configuration.
In addition, the meal tray is also beautifully stored underneath the TV section and the design was much more robust. This was one of the reasons why I found ANA’s First Class to be superior as the cabin is fitted with quality trims and amenities. It was also comfortable enough to sleep in when I put the seat down to a full lie-flat position. The window seat is the one I would choose if travelling alone as there was additional storage on the tray table and I would definitely be satisfied with the Business Class cabin on ANA.
At the back, there was a small Premium Economy class cabin in a 2-4-2 seating arrangement. This cabin was nearly full and the lights have been dimmed for passengers to sleep. At first glance it seems similar to that like Cathay Pacific’s Premium Economy. And in the last section of the aircraft is the Economy class cabin, which is unique in having a 2-4-3 seating configuration. This would definitely work better for groups or families travelling together and yet still provide space for passengers like other premium airlines. Economy class was 100% full and it was not surprising considering ANA only has one section of economy class cabin.
Upon returning to the privacy of the First Class cabin, I changed into my pyjamas and the flight attendant had already converted the seat into a bed complete with duvet and a comfortable blanket. This was the difference in First and Business class – the service and level of amenities (and not to forget the Rimowa kit). I was able to get a few hours of sleep and woke up as the plane was near somewhere along the international date line. This meant there was probably another 4 more hours to the flight so I decided it was time to call the attendant for some umeshu and snacks while I switched on the channel for another movie. I picked the movie ‘Identity Thief’ this time round and had a good laugh though I hoped I did not disturb the rest of the cabin too much. On top of the pralines, chocolates and rice crackers that the attendant provided, the purser also asked if I would be interested in dining before our arrival into Tokyo. Since I knew ANA has introduced ‘Ippudo’ ramen recently on their First Class, I thought of giving it a try. It was just too bad they did not have the ramen with the pork slices, so I had the ‘Furusato soy sauce’ ramen that was good but average at best. I also had more of the Satsuma mandarin juice which is a seasonal beverage on ANA.
After the meal and the movie, there was about an hour left into the flight and I decided to change into my normal clothes. Upon returning to my seat, the purser wanted to collect my pyjamas and I asked if I could actually bring them back since I kind of like their pyjamas. Instead, the purser gave me a new set and even found a cloth bag to store it and present it to me. Another distinctive feature of Japanese hospitality! Even after asking for all these stuff, the purser asked if I would like any more food! Sadly I just had to decline as I find ANA flight between the west coast and Japan to be too short for a full 2 meal service. And upon understanding I would be travelling in Japan for a few days, she gave some recommendations on where to go and what to see in Tokyo at this time of the year. After she left to attend to other passengers, I took more photos of the cabin and all the goodies that I have accumulated on this flight, including the stationery and notebook set that I purchased on ANA’s duty-free.
Some other observations on my second flight with ANA First Class is that the seat has multiple storage compartments that it can be easy to forget stuff left inside any of them. Some of these compartments are small and really designed to fit certain items only like mobile phones and a bottle of water. There is also one for the headphones. Underneath the TV console is a pull out tray for laptops and magazines, and most probably the flight attendant will remind passengers about stuff left in any of these compartments, as mine did before disembarkation.
The descent was smooth and the edge of Narita was actually quite clear though it was supposed to be raining in Tokyo. This just goes to show how far away the city is from Narita. The front door was used for disembarkation and thus First Class passengers were able to leave from the front without holding up the business class passengers. This meant no need for awkward disembarkation. Immigration again was easy to pass through with minimal wait of maybe around 10 minutes as there was a couple of people in front of me. And by the time I head to baggage claim, my luggage has already been loaded onto a cart. Talk about Japanese efficiency! With the Kaiseki meal and the new Rimowa kits, ANA first class is perhaps my favourite way to fly across the Pacific. This flight reinforces ANA as one of my favourite airlines to fly with besides Cathay Pacific though I have to give their business class a go one of these days just to compare it against Cathay Pacific which recently won the ‘best business class’ in the world award.