Whiskey Drinking Robot, or flying first class on JAL from NRT to CGK (Jakarta)

So I am in first class on Japan Airlines right now, and the experience is amazing. A quick idea of what’s happening: After I changed into the very nice pajamas they gave me and came out of the bathroom, the flight attendant demanded that I give her my street clothes so she could hang them up. Apparently, me folding my own clothes would have offended her. Far be it from me to give offense.

I got to the airport at about 7:10 for a 10:55 flight so I would have plenty of time to enjoy the lounge. First class check in started with a lot of bowing, and then directions to the first class security line. I had to wait a bit since security doesn’t open until 7:30, but got through incredibly quickly from there. It was then off to the First Class Lounge.

I will review the lounge separately, because it really is an experience of its own. Briefly, however, it involved excellent sushi, a short massage, more champagne than was reasonable, several other good things to eat, and a partridge in a pear tree. It was a lovely experience worthy of its own review, hence why I will cover it as it’s own thing. However, the excellent champagne did start me down a path which I can only pray ends well with Indonesian customs and immigration officials. It also left me in an excellent frame of mind to enjoy the flight.

The first breakfast I prepared myself in the JAL First Class Lounge. Sushi I saw being made, miso soup, and excellent champagne. Other courses followed.

When we started boarding, the jet bridge split so that first class had its own entry. I have seen the JAL business class cabin, it looks excellent, and I am scheduled to fly on it twice over the next couple of weeks. Still, this was JAL’s way of saying that First Class was something special.

Boarding sign on the jet bridge. First Class had our own entry.

Do you remember earlier when I said the check in process involved a lot of people bowing to me? In a way which seems really weird for a Westerner raised on the equality of all peoples, etc, etc, etc? Well, I several more people bowed in the few feet between me boarding and find my seat. Several items were already at my seat, and almost immediately several people came by to introduce themselves and to bring me more stuff. By the end of it, I had a lovely amenty kit, some slippers, Bose headphones and a drink menu. The seat itself was also excellent, as I attempt to show in a short video as well as the still below..

Seat 2K in first class on JAL. There is essentially infinite legroom and plenty of elbow room.

Shortly after takeoff I got the pajamas which I mentioned earlier. It is at this point, however, that I became a whiskey drinking robot. They brought me a menu, you see– actually two menus, since drinks and food options couldn’t fit on one menu– and on those menus were excellent things to eat and drink. And I had already had several excellent things to eat and drink, you see, and was thus disposed to have more. I tried the aged Suntory Hibiki 17 year old before remembering that I don’t like Scotch, which this very much resembled. No worries, however, as they would soon be back around. At later points in this flight, I also tried the excellent Cabernet, the medium-end bourbon which I already knew and liked, the Royal Blue Tea, and probably something else. Did I mention that I am flying on this ticket for some frequent flyer miles and $14 worth of taxes? I got my $14 worth. While all this may not have been the very best of ideas, things worked out just fine with Indonesian customs and immigration.

There were some problems with this flight, of course. The wifi was patchy and altogether went out several times, and at some point I will have to change out of these pajamas (update: I got to keep them). Still, however, the entire experience was excellent. The chair was comfortable and feels very much more like a reclining lounge chair than it does an airplane seat. The only major component of the flight which I have not covered is the exquisite meal. I actually had to turn down food, because if I had allowed them to bring me any more I might have burst. I would have died happy, but one of the promises I made to my wife and children before leaving on this flight is that I would in point of fact return alive. Bursting would have made that more difficult.

So the menu listed an amuse bouche before the appetizer, but they brought a course before that as well as some packaged snacks. There was a Japanese set menu available as well as several Western choices, and I selected a Western meal. The courses I selected were as follows:

  • Pecan bread (from several choices) along with a tray of butter, melted butter, and salt.
  • An amuse bouche of smooth fondant of salted mullet roe & turnip. There was no option for this course, although there were for other courses.
  • Blue lobster with cauliflower & sour-sweet honey vinegar.
  • Kuroge Wagyu beef fillet with “luxurious Perigueux sauce” served atop a sliced turnip. They asked me what temperature I wanted to steak cooked to, and somehow delivered a successful medium even working with the limitations of an airplane. It was fantastic.
  • A dessert I turned down.
  • Macaroons they brought me anyway, which were somehow a different thing than the dessert.

I have included below pictures of some of the delicious things they brought me to eat. With the exception of one item on the first tray, however– I think it was a liver mousse– everything was superb. It was food I would have paid good money for on the ground.

The pre-amuse bouche course. There was ham and cheese with an olive, a skewer of smoked salmon and vegetables, and a mini-sandwich with what tasted like a liver mousse.
Amusa bouche with bread. The tray in the back was butter, salt, and melted butter.
Lobster and cauliflower appetizer
Wagyu beef entree. It was set on top of a turnip slice, which paired very well.
Macaroons and tea.

This was, all told, a lovely flight. I hope I get to have the experience again one day.

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