Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bali-Tree: ANA First Class SFO-NRT

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ANA Flight NH7
SFO-NRT
Seat: 2K


Normally it's a struggle to get myself out of bed for work when my alarm clock goes off at 8am each morning, but today I was wide awake by 7am and ready to go.  Saying that I was excited to embark on the trip would be a huge understatement.  We left the house around 9am and arrived at SFO around 9:30am.  Normally, my international flights from SFO leave in the very late evening, and the security line isn't too bad.  But at this time of the day, the international security line was a complete zoo.  So I actually used the reverse of the trick I usually use when flying domestic, where I'll go through the international terminal security and then walk back to Terminal 3.  Today the reverse worked quite well, as the domestic Terminal 3 premier line was very efficient and I was able to walk back to the International Terminal afterwards.

I was excited to visit the United Global First lounge for the first time and planned to spend a couple hours there before my flight.  Overall, the lounge is certainly much better than any of the standard domestic United Clubs in the system, but is basically on par with a standard international business class lounge.  Since there were a handful of flight around this time, the lounge was also relatively crowded.  I knew that I'd be eating a lot on my flight so I didn't gorge too much, but the lounge did have a nice breakfast/brunch spread including sushi, smoked duck, cocktail shrimp, and smoked salmon. 

Due to the rainy and foggy weather, my flight was delayed by a half hour.  On top of that we had to wait another half hour on the tarmac for Air Force One.  This is the 2nd time in the past year that Mr. President has caused my flight to be delayed, who does he think he is?! 

Boarding was very efficient and I was one of the first on the plane.  The first class cabin has a capacity of 8 seats, but only 3 were filled on the flight.  Immediately after boarding, the flight attendant asked if I wanted to change into pajamas (which I did) and offered me a glass of champagne.  I took a bit of time to explore the seat - many people feel like the cubes are a bit industrial-feeling, and I would have to agree.  It's not as welcoming or luxurious as the Singapore seats, but I think it has a similar feel to the Thai and Korean Air first class seats, but does offer more privacy.  There are a lot of little cabinets and nooks around the seat and it took a while to figure out where everything was and how it all worked.  I did find the touch screen for the IFE to be quite slick, although it's not easily reachable when sitting down.  The amenity kit was waiting for me at my seat, and while I had read that ANA recently upgraded to Rimowa kits for flights arriving in NRT, I was disappointed to find the old Samsonite.  The flight attendant also came by with additional toiletries to add to the ones provided already inside the kit.

ANA cube
changed into PJs right after boarding

IFE screen


No Rimowa???

amenity kit supplemented with additional items

About an hour after takeoff, the meal service started.  I was really looking forward to this and had read up quite a bit about what to expect.  I already knew that I wanted to try the Kaiseki menu, but would supplement with caviar and some of the western desserts.  I've been wanting to try a Kaiseki menu in general for a long time, and it's funny that it would finally happen on a flight.  After trying all the dishes, I would recommend that people only go for it if you're somewhat of an adventurous eater.  There are definitely a few things in there with some interesting textures and flavors,  so if you're a meat and potatoes kind of person, might be best to stick with the steak.  As I was eating, I was thinking to myself that I would be really hungry afterwards since the individual portions are small, but all the little things do add up and at the end I was quite full.  I was really impressed with all the dishes, and honestly the sushi and fish were among the best that I've had at Japanese restaurants anywhere.



keep the Krug flowing

amuse bouche

caviar service

lots of crazy flavors and textures including the squid roe at the top

soup with crab and duck

sea bream sushi was fantastic

monkfish liver in top left, steamed egg on top right, and rockfish dish in the middle




At the conclusion of the meal service I requested turndown service and the flight attendant made the bed, and I found the thin tempurpedic-like mattress to be quite comfortable.  After a relatively brief Krug-induced nap, I woke up and ordered a snack of fish cakes and chicken and vegetables with rice, along with an iced coffee. There was another light meal service before arrival and gave me the opportunity to try even more Japanese dishes.  Not sure that I've ever eaten that much fish in a 9-hour period before in my life.

turndown service, slept like a baby

iced coffee

fish cakes

chicken and vegetables with rice

2nd meal service - chicken curry, grilled mackerel, and miso soup before landing

Overall, I had a great flight on ANA.  While the seat itself wasn't necessarily much better than some of the other airlines, I felt like the service was extremely good and efficient throughout the flight.  On top of it all, I think the food that they serve as part of the Kaiseki menu is very different and unique compared to what other airlines offer and that alone would make me prioritize ANA as an option in the future.

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