In 2007, Singapore Airlines became the first airline to operate Airbus's superjumbo A380-800, a leviathan capable of flying up to 853 passengers. The airline decided to do away with its traditional first-class product and offer something called Suites Class, which it advertised as a "class beyond first."
My home for almost 19 hours
12 airlines (none based in the Americas) now fly the A380, with most operating some uber-luxe first class product befitting the giant whale. Dubai-based Emirates, famously, has two on-board showers for its first class customers; Abu Dhabi-based Etihad will fly the A380 with an over-the-top product called The Residence which includes a separate bedroom and bathroom.
At 0:12, something horrible happens
But years before the UAE carriers blinged out their A380s, Singapore was the first. And with a surprisingly affordable redemption through KrisFlyer miles, I was finally on board!
Singapore Airlines 011, Los Angeles > Tokyo-Narita
Suites Class, Seat 03F
I was "that guy" who wanted to be the first person on board so I could take pictures without bothering the other passengers. Before I got to my seat, five different flight attendants greeted me by name. And throughout the flight, they remembered my name - I was impressed.
So here's the spacious Suites cabin:
The snaking aisleway
My suite (3F)
In pictures, it looks like a (very wide) dental chair
Remote control and storage area
Front view from the seat
Side view from the seat (facing Suite 3D)
Lufthansa offers macadamia nuts to its first-class customers during boarding. Fancy, yes, but boring. On this flight, Singapore choose to offer something people actually want instead.
Nacho cheese Doritos
Shortly before departure, the flight attendants offered us slippers, pajama sets (Givenchy) and amenity kits (Salvatore Ferragamo).
Ottoman with pillows and pajamas
The amenity kit contents is a bit unusual - lip balm, a cleansing towel, hand cream, and a small bottle of cologne. (Men and women get different amenity kits.) The items you might ordinarily expect to find (eye shade, toothbrush, ear plugs) are available in the restroom or handed out separately.
The boarding door closed with 9 out of the 12 suites occupied.
Lufthansa and Emirates's A380s at neighboring gates
Air France A380 pulls up next to us
As we boarded, menus had already been distributed at our seats for both the LAX > Tokyo and Tokyo > Singapore legs. This leg offered a dinner and a "light meal" before arrival in Tokyo. And in Suites Class, the food options go well beyond the lackluster "chicken or beef" options you often find in coach.
For dinner, passengers could choose between the kyo-kaiseki (a traditional multi-course Japanese meal) or more standard options:
Mountain yam with plum sauce, Japanese eggplant with miso sauce,
pumpkin custard with tosa soy sauce
and Tonburi mountain caviar
Tuna sashimi salad with citrus dressing
Buckwheat noodles with garnishes
Yellowtail sushi, spinach with sesame sauce, pickled ginger
King salmon and vegetables in ginger sauce
Grilled halibut with sea urchin,
Prime beef fillet with teriyaki sauce
Steamed rice with matsutake mushroom
Assortment of three Japanese pickles
Clear soup with sea bream and nameko mushroom
Green tea ice cream with red beans
* * *
Chilled malossol caviar
With melba toast and condiments
Hot-smoked salmon salad
Horseradish raita and lemon vinaigrette
French lentil soup with spiced lamb sausage and green apple
Hot and sour soup
Szechuan style mild spicy and sour soup
garnished with shrimps, shredded chicken,
beancurd and vegetables
Frisee and endive salad with roasted pumpkin,
feta cheese and kalamata olive
Sesame soya dressing
Seared US Prime sirloin with cold green sauce,
fingerling potato, trumpet-oyster mushroom
Lobster in pesto veloute with cherry tomato,
asparagus and fettucine with rocket leaves
Braised spring chicken with black mushrooms
in soya sauce, seasonal vegetables
and steamed rice
Pumpkin crepe with cheesecake filling,
cranberry compote and candied pumpkin seeds
Rouge et noir triple creme brie, fourme d'ambert,
purple moon and California goat cheese
served with apricot paste, seasonal fruit,
walnut and biscuit
Fresh fruits in season
A selection of gourmet coffees & fine teas
served with pralines
I intended to get the lobster, but I texted the menu to a friend before the flight who persuaded me to go with the kyo-kaiseki instead. I wasn't interested in the mountain yam / eggplant course in the kaiseki and asked to replace that with caviar instead.
2004 Dom Pérignon Champagne
The first course was caviar served with caviar-y accoutrements.
It's a little surprising that Singapore doesn't serve the caviar with a caviar spoon. Apparently, this is bad form to caviar snobs, as metal spoons can affect the taste of caviar.
After the caviar, the kyo-kaiseki began. The chopsticks were just disposable wood chopsticks (again, a bit of a surprise.)
That's a good-looking chopstick stone, though
I had skipped the first course so began with the oshinogi course of soba noodles, yellowtail nigiri, and some smaller amuse-bouches.
It's a pretty simple course - the soba noodles are cold and refreshing (there's a dipping sauce for the noodles). Next up was the futamono (literally, "lidded dish") course of salmon and vegetables in a ginger sauce.
The dish was perfectly composed. The ginger sauce wasn't thick - it was almost like a nice broth holding everything together. I usually hate carrots, but this carrot changed my mind - it's one of the best things I've ever eaten on a plane.
And then the nino-zen (literally, "second course") and tomewan (literally, "the cup to end the meal") courses were served together.
It's a lot of food to serve at once. The beef was a little overcooked but very flavorful, and the halibut was tender and perfectly cooked. (The menu said the halibut would be served with sea urchin, but I never saw any).
The real highlight of this course was the clear broth, which was light and refreshing but full of a delicious savory mushroom flavor.
The kyo-kaiseki ended with the mizugashi course of green tea cake. Mizugashi literally translates to fruit, so the course was a bit of a misnomer. The cake was fine - nothing special. I ordered a Japanese genmaicha green tea to go along with the cake.
And to finish it all off, I had some fresh berries.
Some actual mizugashi, AMIRITE
After dinner, I decided to change into my pajamas and take a nap.
Changing bench in the restroom
Without me having to ask, the flight attendant converted my seat into a bed and left me a bottle of water.
Three pillows for everybody!
Suite doors closed and shades drawn
I napped off-and-on for about four hours and then watched Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy (yeah, I know Chris Pratt is awesome, but this was pretty meh.)
While I was napping, I didn't have a chance to order from the "light bites" menu:
Create your own noodles dish in a rich chicken stock
Choice of fresh noodles:
kway teow or egg noodles or rice noodles
Garnish with either:
chicken and black mushroom or
prawn and lettuce or
black mushroom and Chinese greens
Cuban style pork sandwich in baguette
with mesclun and tomato
Cashew nuts, honeyed walnuts or macadamia nuts
Assorted cheeses with garnishes
Not eating the mid-flight snack was probably a good thing, as my "light meal" wasn't light at all. Singapore Airlines gives its business- and first/Suites-class customers the option to pre-order a meal online from a menu. They call it "Book the Cook," and the choices vary based on departure city. From Los Angeles, the menu for Suites Class is:
Book the Cook - LAX
Atlantic salmon fillet with shrimp and garlic sauce, and ratatouille
Grilled veal chops with natural jus with seasonal vegetables and potato gnocchi
Lemon-herb grilled chicken on sourdough roll with salad
Lobster Thermidor with buttered asparagus, slow-roasted vine-ripened tomato, and saffron rice
Pan-seared pheasant with stuffed blini and vegetables
Five-spiced Chilean bass with assorted vegetables and fried rice
Beef Sukiyaki with steamed rice
Crabmeat Ee-Fu noodle soup with Chinese greens
Ginger beef and fried rice
Kow Pao chicken and steamed rice
Toasted multigrain country bread with herb cottage cheese, grilled vegetables and fresh berries low fat yoghurt (Breakfast only)
I pre-ordered the lobster thermidor. Had I ordered off the paper menu, I could have chosen from another kyo-kaiseki or some more standard options.
Conger eel with burdock, chestnut ball,
baked mussel with yolk sauce,
nesting simmered dry daikon
Japanese style omelette
Gizzard shad with vinaigrette sauce
Seared duck with mushroom sauce
Fried oyster with sanshiyo pepper
Kenchin miso soup
* * *
Smoked duck breast with gooseliver, dried fig compote
and mustard vinaigrette
Cured pork chop with romesco sauce,
baby spinach salad and sweet potato-bacon hash
Stir fried seafood with black bean sauce,
chinese vegetable and rice noodle
Warm cherry crumble with morello cherry compote
and yoghurt ice cream
A selection of gourmet coffees & fine teas
The flight attendant confirmed that my lobster thermidor choice successfully made it on board. I know lobster used to be considered "poverty food" - after a rebellion, servants in Massachusetts successfully got contracts mandating that they would only have to eat lobster for three meals a week. That's crazy. Lobster is delicious.
Garlic bread, lobster thermidor
This was really, really, rich. I came close to finishing but couldn't, as I wanted to save room for the dessert.
Warm cherry crumble, cherry compote, yogurt ice cream
I've never heard of yogurt (or yoghurt, to the British-spelling Singaporeans) ice cream, but it's really, really good. A little bit tart and very creamy, it's an excellent accompaniment to a cherry tart.
After dessert, the cabin crew thanked us individually for flying on Singapore Airlines and made some small-talk about our final destinations. Before long, we landed in Tokyo. The cabin crew made sure that Suites passengers disembarked first so they wouldn't have to wait while going through transit security or customs. (Even passengers continuing to Singapore must disembark).
Flight path from Los Angeles to Tokyo-Narita
Charli XCX knew what she was talking about when she sang the hook in Iggy Azalea's "Fancy" - it's a whole lot of fun flying "so fancy" "from LA to Tokyo." Suites Class exceeded my high expectations. The flight attendants constantly anticipated the passengers' needs and delivered great service.
Next up - the ANA Suite Lounge at Tokyo-Narita.
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