Somewhere above the Bering Sea on the long haul flight between Tokyo and New York, a Japan Airlines flight attendant kindly brought me a steaming bowl of rich broth and chewy udon noodles. Mine was the only seat lit at this late hour in the darkened cabin while glued to a subtitled crime drama marathon. (I'm a sucker for film noir in any language.) Recently, JAL launched its new business-class "Sky Suite" service on international routes to New York, London and Paris; service to Chicago and Los Angeles follows shortly. It's almost like having your own capsule hotel room, complete with a fully reclining seat, 23-inch LCD screen, and bed slippers. Definitely request a window seat for utmost privacy.
For me, what distinguishes this class of service—especially after a week spent shopping and dining like a local in Tokyo—were the seasonal Sky Auberge menu options created by some of Japan's most inventive chefs, including Seiji Yamamoto of Michelin three-star Nihonryori RyuGin and Koji Shimomura of Édition. Starting this month, desserts by international pastry star Jean-Paul Hévin will also appear onboard. (Tokyo has developed quite a sweet tooth since top French confectioners came to town with their macarons and eclairs and mousse au chocolat.)
Dinner began with a sectioned bento box containing kaiseki-style amuse—sea bass sashimi, grilled halibut, shrimp and scallop with grated daikon-vinegar sauce—in lacquered "kobachi' bowls. Miso soup, steamed Koshihikari rice, crunchy pickles and chicken braised in a yuzu-pepper-radish sauce followed. (The airline offers a Western-style menu as well.) Even after all that, I couldn't resist ordering a midnight snack of comforting noodles from the "Anytime You Wish" menu. It was almost like room service. And I can now confess: the airline's red "flying crane" origami chopstick holder traveled the rest of the way home in my pocket.