Flight Review: All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class NRT to IAD

Introduction

I posted previously about my ANA first class flight from Chicago to Tokyo Haneda. This flight was the return leg of that trip. For 150,000 miles for a round trip ticket in first class between the U.S. and Japan, this is an excellent use of your Amex Membership Rewards points. The downside is that ANA only allows round trip award redemptions, (so you need to find award space going both directions,) which can be a bit tricky.

The Ground Experience at Tokyo Narita

The neat thing about flying ANA F out of Narita is that you get access to their “Suite Check-In” which is a private check-in area with its own dedicated security line! When you arrive at Narita Terminal 1, instead of the standard ANA check-in counters, you need to head towards the “Z” area where the entrance to the suite check-in is located. ANA (and Star Alliance airlines in general) use the South Wing of Narita Terminal 1. Skyteam airlines are in the North Wing of Terminal 1, and Oneworld airlines are in Terminal 2.

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Private check-in lounge for first class passengers!

The Suite Check-In area featured several check-in desks/counters, and looks pretty comfy. However, I was eager to try out the ANA First Class Lounge, so I did not spend much time in here. I have to say though, having access to the private security line (where there was literally zero waiting time) was pretty special.

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After passing through security, I spent a little bit of time browsing through the duty free shops en route to the ANA first class lounge which they refer to as the “Suite Lounge.” Of note, the first class lounge shares the same check-in counter as the business class lounge. From the lounge check-in, business class passengers go left and the first class passengers go right.

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Entrance to the ANA lounge

Upon checking into the lounge, I was escorted to a seat by the window with a pretty good view of the tarmac.

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The lounge attendant brought me a glass of Perrier with lemon and a hot towel infused with the signature ANA aroma oil. Definitely gets you in the mood for the amazing flight to come!

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The decor at the ANA Suite Lounge is what I would call understated elegance. Nothing glitzy about it, but it’s clean, comfortable, spacious. As I was there fairly early in the morning, there wasn’t a spectacular spread of food. Both the Suite Lounge and the business class lounge have access to a made-to-order noodles bar, but I did not partake as I did not want to ruin my appetite for the food on the airplane. (Now that I think about it, saving your appetite for airplane food is going to sound contradictory to most travelers!) The bar did stock a bottle of Glenfiddich 15 Solera Reserve (one of my all-time favorite single malt scotch) so I did have a small glass of that.

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Boarding the Flight

Just like my inbound flight from Chicago O’Hare to Tokyo Haneda, my flight from Tokyo Narita to Washington Dulles was on ANA’s 777-300ER featuring their ANA First Square seat in first class.

I already reviewed the seat on my previous flight review so I didn’t take additional pictures of the seat. Please refer to my other ANA review for details of the seat! (ANA First Class ORD-HND) For reference, this is what the seat looked like on my outbound flight.

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Seat 1A, ANA First Class 777-300ER

Waiting for me at my seat was ANA’s excellent hard-case Samsonite amenity kit . I was pleasantly surprised to see that while my amenity kit on the inbound was a dark blue color, they switched up the color of the kit to a light blue color for the outbound.

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Having a 24″ monitor at your seat on an airplane never gets old!
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ANA first class amenity kit

Upon settling into my seat, I was offered a glass of champagne which I of course accepted.

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Both the food and drinks menu were waiting for me at my seat, so I browsed through them as we departed from Tokyo Narita right on time.

While only 2 out of 8 first class seats were occupied on my inbound flight from Chicago to Haneda, 7 out of 8 first class seats were occupied for my outbound flight to Washington DC. With triple the amount of passengers to take care of compared to my inbound flight, the flight attendants weren’t quite as attentive on my outbound flight as they were on my inbound flight. However, they were all still very friendly and quick to accommodate whatever requests I had.

The drink menu on this leg was the same as the inbound leg, with the stars being Krug Grand Cuvee champagne and the Suntory Hibiki 21 yrs whisky. I’ll repost the menu below:

The in flight meal selection was completely different from my inbound flight, for both the Japanese and International selections. Since I had the International meal on my way to Japan, I opted for the Japanese meal on my way out of Japan. The menu looked like this:

You’ll notice on the right hand edge of the last menu photo that ANA’s menu book includes options for both “From Japan” and “From U.S.A.” So make sure you’re looking at the right set of menu items depending on your airport of origin!

The meal service started with a glass of Krug, which in my opinion is the best premium champagne to have on an airplane. The depth of its flavor profile is just phenomenal.

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Krug Grand Cuvee champagne

The Krug was followed by an amuse of crab claw, beef ham, veggies, and salmon trout. This course is apparently exclusive to flights originating in Japan, and everyone in first class gets it regardless of whether you ordered the Japanese cuisine or International cuisine.

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Amuse-bouche: dressed salmon trout and salmon roe w/ rice malts, marinated vegetables and tomato gelee rolled w/ fish ham, watermelon radish rolled with uncured beef ham and marinated silver striped herrings, deep fried crab claw with Chinese style black pepper sauce

My multi-course Japanese meal then started with grilled snow crab leg, yam rolled with beef, sushi roll w/ halfbeak prawn and cucumber, steamed egg custard, and botargo. The botargo is the dish in the back of the photo below, and I had no idea what it was until I just looked it up. Apparently it’s salt cured mullet fish roe and is also called bottarga.

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Zensai: Chinese yam rolled w/ simmered beef, sushi roll w/ halfbeak prawn and cucumber, steamed savory egg custard with crab butter, botargo, and grilled snow crab meat

Although I enjoy my fair share of fish roe (eggs), I didn’t particularly enjoy the botargo. It probably would’ve paired much better with Japanese sake or shochu, but I kept ordering Krug.

It should also be noted that the Japanese meal on board is a set menu. You get everything that’s listed on the menu. The variety of dishes you get is amazing, but as you’ll see, the dishes are mostly seafood. You’ll need to be a hardened seafood lover to really enjoy this course.

The next dish was a clear broth with a scallops-based fishcake.

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Owan: Clear soup with scallop fishcake.

Next came a plate of seared yellowtail sashimi with grated daikon radish.

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Otsukuri: Seared yellowtail sashimi with grated daikon radish

Then finally, the main course which consisted of grilled conger eel, simmered beef tongue, simmered monkfish + monkfish liver, rice, and miso soup. As you can see, each course was plated beautifully. They wouldn’t look out of place at a restaurant on the ground. The monkfish liver was brutally fishy however, and I couldn’t finish it. Literally the only piece of food I did not finish on this entire flight.

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Kobachi: Grilled conger eel and vegetables (and a piece of shrimp that wasn’t listed on the menu)
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Takiawase: Simmered beef tongue in miso-based sauce
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Main dish: Simmered monkfish and monkfish liver in soy-based sauce
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Miso soup

After all that, you would think that I couldn’t eat any more… but then I was served a plate of Japanese yokan (sweet jellied red bean paste) AND a plate of crepe w/ ice cream and fruits. Having had my fill of Krug at this point, I switched over to a glass of Hibiki 21.

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Wagashi: Toraya “Omokage” Yokan
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Dessert: Crepe w/ vanilla ice cream and fruits
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A glass of Suntory Hibiki 21 years old whisky on the rocks

So after what may have been the longest meal service I’ve ever experienced on an airplane (longest in a good way), I finished off with a cup of cafe latte and relaxed while listening to Hikaru Utada’s newest album. The music selection on most airplanes tends to skew towards oldies so I was super excited to see “Fantome” available, which was barely 2 months old at the time of this flight!

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Illy cafe latte
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ANA on-board music selection

I did have the flight attendants set up my bed at my seat (see my other ANA Review for pictures of the “bed”) and slept for about 2 hours. The bed was quite comfortable and I could’ve slept for a lot longer, but it always seems like such a waste to sleep too much on a first class flight. Too many food and drinks to try still!

I should note that of all the Asian airlines I’ve flown first class in so far, ANA seems to keep the cabin the coolest… which is very nice. I’ve woken up from my nap sweating on JAL, KAL, and SQ.

About halfway through the flight, I tried ordering a few items off of their “Light Dishes Anytime” menu.

I selected the deep fried Daisendori chicken (basically chicken karaage) and the ANA original curry rice. The flight attendant also offered to serve salad with my curry, so I decided to give that a try too. These dishes were all phenomenal. Honestly, I preferred these items to the main meal on this particular flight.

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Deep-fried Daisendori chicken with Japanese spices
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ANA original curry rice with a side salad

I was then offered a fruit plate, so I asked for a small one.

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Fruit plate

After this, I lounged around for a few hours while watching some movies and sipping on more Hibiki 21.

Around 1.5~2 hours prior to arrival, the flight attendants came back around with the pre-arrival meal. I once again selected the Japanese option which consisted of stir fried pork, grilled yellowtail, rice, and several rice toppings including nori, natto, and dried baby sardines. Having grown up in Japan, I really enjoyed this meal. However, I can see this meal being challenging for most westerners. (especially the natto and baby sardines)

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Stir fried pork w/ yuzu citron flavoring, grilled yellowtail, steamed rice, miso soup, and sides of natto, nori, and shirasu.

Soon after this meal, we were making our descent towards Washington Dulles, and landed a few minutes early. Upon deplaning, I got my last few glimpses of the aircraft as the people mover contraption at IAD carried us towards immigration & customs.

Conclusion

This was another great flight in ANA First Class. The seat and cabin comfort, the level of service, the food, and drinks are all top notch. ANA’s stellar reputation is certainly well-earned.

However, I was surprised to see so many dishes on the Japanese menu that are “acquired tastes.” And even though I was born and raised in Japan, even I hadn’t acquired the taste for some of those dishes, especially the mullet fish roe and the monkfish liver.

I would highly recommend ANA First Class… but I believe 99% of the people reading this blog would be better off ordering the “International” menu and not the Japanese menu.

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