Gary Leff from the excellent View from the Wing is a heavyweight in the world of miles and point blogging. He’s been chasing miles for years and a big part of all of that traveling is eating along the way. You may be following Gary’s posts about his recent trip to Southeast Asia, but I wanted to dig in and focus on the more delicious parts of the trip: the food! Check out Gary’s answers below and answer this week’s Fly&Dine Giveaway Question in the comments for your chance to win $50 to Starbucks! Take it away, Gary!
You just flew to Asia. What did you eat on the flight? Give me your best mini-review.
I flew Cathay Pacific New York JFK – Hong Kong. It’s the morning departure so they begin with brunch. Cathay doesn’t have the most remarkable food among first class offerings, but they’re solid. It’s almost always better to go with the Chinese dishes. I had the dim sum, as I always do, the best parts being their chili sauce and the glutinous rice with chicken wrapped in banana leaf.
The second meal is the one on this flight where they make the investment. It’s always worth beginning with the Western option – caviar and tsar nicolaj salmon. They’ll give you seconds if you wish, but I didn’t go there. The Chinese lobster was excellent.
Cathay Pacific, like ANA, offers Krug as their champagne. Thai is known for Dom. Singapore beams with pride over offering both. I did have a taste of that along with a glass of Johnny Walker Blue as I enjoyed some post-meal petit fours and began to relax into their CX World entertainment system.
What’s the best meal you’ve had on this trip?
I’ve just finished up lunch at Bo Innovation in Hong Kong which was a real treat and (believe it or not) value about ~ $100pp for 8 courses. A Michelin 3-star Chinese molecular gastronomy restaurant.
Last night had dinner at Amber, at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental – possibly Hong Kong’s best restaurant. The wagyu beef course was one of the best I’ve ever had. I literally could have eaten the beef without chewing. And most impressive to me was that the dish was served with seven different types of onion. This is the sort of place where they care of the 7th way they’re preparing the onion, and each is there for a reason. Clearly food cost is not a constraint!
In some ways though, my best meal might have been Pho Hoa on Pasteur Street in Ho Chi Minh City… I’ve had higher quality ingredients in pho, for sure, but the broth was amazing. Perfect. I’ve never found a pho place that serves it with the bread that they do, bread I can best approximate as if I were in Singapore it would be called yew char kway but I’m just not sure what it is in Vietnam. Along with spring rolls, all-in for less than US$4pp.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen (food-wise) while in Asia?
Perhaps oddly, nothing on this trip – in Vietnam, Cambodia, or Hong Kong – struck me as especially strange. I’ve certainly eaten street food in Beijing where there are all manner of beetles. I’ve eaten snake (tastes like calamari). I’ve eaten ostrich, emu, crocodile, and kangaroo in Australia. But nothing would get me to eat the beetles. I didn’t go seeking anything like that though. There were some interesting liver dishes in Cambodia, though, they were quite good and I didn’t think them strange at the time I was eating them although as I think back on it they might have been.
Do you ever eat “American food” while you’re abroad?
One of the great adventures is the food I get to eat, that I either don’t have access to at home or that just isn’t the same. And it’s a wonderful way to try to understand and get a sense of place through food (though Michelin 3-star dining is the exception here and not how I eat most of my meals!). So I don’t really eat very much ‘American food’ although I did have one clearly non-Asian meal in the two weeks I’ve been traveling. After traveling from Siem Reap to Macau I checked into my hotel and was just dead tired. I ordered up room service. I wanted to pick just one thing, and I had a bowl of pasta.
But I’d never seek out American fast food, unless it’s to use the restroom. McDonald’s can be a godsend all over the world, an opportunity to stop in in relative cleanliness wherever I am. And fast food, or quick service American brand dining, can be really quite different around the world. One sleepless night around 2am in Tokyo I stopped into Denny’s some years ago and found fantastic Japanese food (by the standards I’m used to at home).
What’s your favorite airline in terms of food? Do you find a major difference between the US legacy carriers and the Asian airlines?
I think that Singapore Airlines does the best job with entrees and the best job with business class, since they offer book the cook (pre-order your meal selection) even in business and even on short haul flights departing Singapore. I had my single best airline meal on a short business class flight from Singapore to Bali, having pre-ordered the laksa. But Singapore falls down on the inflight snacks. They’re really weak there.
If you like Japanese food, ANA’s offerings in first class are simply amazing.
Overall, though, I think the best job with food is done by Asiana in first class. High quality ingredients, fantastic presentation, everything comes across fantastically well.
Thanks to Gary for an awesome interview. Make sure you check out View from the Wing for more great coverage of Gary’s trip.
If you want to enter this week’s giveaway for a $50 gift card to Starbucks, just answer this question:
“What’s your favorite type of Asian food?” It could be a specific country’s cuisine (Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, etc.) or a favorite dish.
If you have Twitter, please do me a favor and tweet this to your followers: “I just entered Fly&Dine’s giveaway for $50 to @Starbucks! Enter here to win: http://bit.ly/NkFgAh”
One entry per person. No purchase necessary. In fact, there’s nothing to purchase. By entering, you agree that you’re cool with the fact that Fly&Dine makes all the decisions and those decisions are final, even if you don’t like them. Contest closes at 11:59pm Pacific on Sunday 3/23/2014. Winner will be contacted via email. Please provide a valid email address when leaving your comment. If we don’t receive a response from you after one week of being notified, a new winner will be chosen at random.