After having enjoyed a few glasses of champagne along with some braised short rib in the United Global First Lounge, I made my way to my departure gate. Which it happens would be gate B46, right outside the United lounge. I paid for this flight using Eurobonus points, for which I have saved for quite some time. You can read about my points strategy and how you can fly First Class for free here.
Boarding through door 1L, I was warmly greeted by the crew and escorted to seat 2K. ANA’s first class cabin consists of 8 seats, spread out over two rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. The seats offer plenty of privacy and are very comfortable. The colour scheme of the cabin is not the best. The biggest downside of the seat is that windows are blocked by the seat/suite walls, and there is only one window which you can realistically see out of. One which you have to bend forward to be able to look out from, when seated. Waiting at my seat was relaxing wear(pyjamas).
Alongside the pyjamas came a Samsonite amenity kit, well stocked with products. Products are from the Japanese brand The Ginza. I got the option to choose blue or red, I choose blue.
Pre-departure drinks were served, with a choice of champagne and juice. As champagne is the de-facto theme of this trip, I went with the champagne.
The flight attendant informed me that it would be around twenty minutes before pushback, suggesting I change into relaxing wear(read:pyjamas) and drink champagne. I happily complied. The FA made sure the lavatory was spotless before I entered, and I as left she promptly took care of my clothes. I would later find them neatly hung in a compartment in the suite wall. The pyjamas feels great, with two different tops to choose from. One is a long sleeved shirt, while the other one is more of a short sleeved cardigan. They were comfortable and nice to the touch! Slippers were provided alongside an ANA branded shoe horn, heaven forbid you have to use your fingers or untie your shoes! Soon enough, we made our taxi, to what I assume was a runway. By the immense roar of the GE90 engines, we were soon airborne. As soon as the seatbelt sign was switched off, the cabin crew sprung into action. It was not long until I had a glass of Krug in front of me and with that came tonight’s menu.
The amuse-bouche, consisting of cauliflower mousse tartelette with caviar, dried fig and mascarpone cheese, asparagus and prosciutto roll with truffle and cheese pepper bars, was DELICIOUS! Went fantastically well with the champagne.
As I was rather barbarically gobbling down my snacks, the flight attendant came round to take my menu order. I asked for the Japanese menu, Washoku. Her eyes lit up and she asked if I was sure, to which her surprise went into a smile. Could it be that most westerners order the western menu on ANA, causing the surprise? As the Washoku is close to a ten course meal, I was ready for the onslaught of food that was about to come.
First came the Sakizuke and Zenzai. The first a selection of morsels, therein including simmered abalone in soy sauce, grilled mackerel with vegetables and egg, jellied monkfish liver, marinated herring roe in soy based sauce, miso-grilled duck and simmered apricot and simmered black beans in syrup. The latter consisted of dressed squid and salmon roe. They were both delicious, providing a wide range and depth of flavours. The dressed squid was particularly good.
And no meal is complete without soup! Next up was Owan, shredded vegetables and sand borer with pork fat. You had me at pork fat. The soup was soul warming and rich.
And now time for the sashimi, which is what first caught my eye looking at the menu. Otsukuri, seared kombu kelp-cured flounder with ponzu gelée. The flounder tasted very fresh, albeit at the start it was a tad too cold.
This is starting to sound like a segment from the Disney movie Ferdinand the Bull, but then came the Takiawase. Then came the Kobachi. Then came the Shusai. The takiawase, simmered duck in soy-based sauce(are you seeing a theme?) was great.
The Kobachi, deep-fried salmon in vinegar sauce. It tasted great. I could make up words about how the vinegar complemented the sweetness of god’s nectar, but I will and can not. It was good. Just trust me.
And then the Shusai, the salt-grilled salmon and simmered beef in soy-based ginger sauce. Sadly, both components were overdone and everything a bit dry. But I finished it anyway, you don’t know the next time you’ll have a chance to eat (plenty of chances, it would show)!
Then came the steamed rice with pickles and miso soup. Most of the pickles were tasty, but the big brown one(my food knowledge is immense) was not so tasty. The miso soup not ground breaking, in class with the one served at the sushi joint next to my favourite subway station. The rice was good. I finished it all.
Did I mention that the flight attendant had paired every meal with a different kind of saké? That the glass was never empty for longer than a minute? That the saké varied from bitter to sweet, from strong to less strong, made the meals even more fun (or intoxicating). I do not know anything about saké, but I enjoyed it.
Next up the flight attendant, spurred on by my enjoyment of the japanese menu, offered me the Japanese dessert, Wagashi. It was served with matcha tea, which I enjoyed. Does this make me a hipster? The Japanese sweets were different and I dare say I should stick to Swedish sweets. But it was fun to try!
Having eyed the menu for the 27th time, I ordered a glass of Hibiki 21 year old whisky. I must admit the reason I ordered it is because I know that the bottle retails for around $700 USD.
The whisky was fantastic. A perfect night cap, as I dreamily looked towards seat 2G where the FA had prepared me a bed.
It would not be long until I rather drunkenly fell into a deep sleep, dreaming of breakfast.
I got six hours of uninterrupted sleep, or six hours lost from the first class experience. The view I awoke to however was fabulous. I pressed the call button, and within 4 seconds(!!!) there was a FA at my seat. I asked for coffee, with which I was served various biscuits and sweets. The coffee was good, coming from an addict.
Alongside my morning coffee, I made an effort to offload some of the flight’s footage onto my laptop, which is hands down the best office I’ve ever sat in. Working hard makes you build an appetite, so I ordered the ANA signature curry. While not an exclusive meal by any standards(but who gives a rat’s ass about that?), curries are in my opinion the best airplane food. Especially when they are accompanied by a bottle of Krug, opened just for you. It was a perfect breakfast.
The FA cleared my plate almost as quickly as I finished the curry, and refilled my glass. A few times. To finish things off, I asked for some fruit. It is important pair the carbohydrates with some vitamins.
The remainder of the flight was spent browsing through the entertainment selection, an episode or two of a bad sitcom and writing this report. And continuous refill of the drink of your choice. As we were approaching Haneda, the purser came round to offer me a gift from the crew. It might be because of my irresistible charm. Or it might be because of my tradition to always bring a small gift to the crew, in this flight’s case a big bar of Swedish chocolate. Nevertheless, the gift made me as an avgeek and aerospace engineer giddy with joy. There were dozens of postcards, a deck of cards, stickers, inflatable airplane and most importantly an ANA flight tag.
A smooth approach, landing and taxi later I would leave the flight that is hands down the best flight of my life(so far). I can’t wait to fly ANA again and I hope it will be soon.