There are a few airlines that fly directly from the US West Coast to Hong Kong: Cathay Pacific (out of both SFO and LAX), Delta (out of SEA), Singapore (out of SFO), and United (out of SFO). While I would have loved to try out Singapore Airline’s Economy Class, I decided to fly Cathay Pacific on this trip to Hong Kong as I am trying to get elite status on American Airlines this year. Thus, I booked a flight on Cathay Pacific through American Airlines.
Cathay Pacific has a reputation for being one of the best airlines in the world, even if you are flying in Economy. While I was excited to fly them again for a number of reasons, the food wasn’t one of them, if I’m being honest. Maybe I over-hyped myself on my last trip to Hong Kong, but I found half the meals on my March-April 2015 trip to be disappointing. Even their signature dish, braised beef over rice, seemed too salty and way too drenched in sauce (though I must add that the congee on that trip was excellent).
Needless to say, I had low expectations for this pair of flights, but I was delightfully surprised as you can see below.
LAX-HKG (CX 883)
Cathay Pacific flight 883 currently leaves Los Angeles at 10:35PM Pacific Time with a scheduled landing at 5:40AM in Hong Kong. As such, Cathay Pacific serves supper a little after take off and breakfast a couple hours before landing with the ability to order a few snacks (for free!) in between meal services.
For supper I got the beef provencal, green beans, carrots, and parlsey red bliss potatoes. I eschewed the braised chicken Chinese dish option given the lackluster taste from my last trip. While I don’t know if the braised chicken was any better this flight, the beef was really good. I loved how the provencal sauce was perfectly season and there was just enough to cover the beef and help flavor the vegetables without overpowering everything. The vanilla ice cream, as usual, was a nice touch. However, I’m still not a fan of the marinated baby shrimp and quinoa salad. The frozen shrimp doesn’t taste great and the flavors really don’t meld well with any main entree.
After watching The Martian and Room, I got a decent amount of rest and woke up pretty much around breakfast time. Because I loved the congee I had on my last trip, I decided to have the Chicken and Ginger Congee. While the congee itself was pretty decent, and I always love a little bit of ginger in it, the chicken was overcooked and pretty tough. The chicken and mushroom congee of last year was a little better from my experience.
HKG-LAX (CX 884)
Given my decent success with the meal services on my way to Hong Kong, I decided to go forward and try all their Chinese menu options for the trip back home. The first meal service was lunch where I had the braised beef rib finger, soya sauce, jade melon, and steamed jasmine rice. This was undoubtedly the best meal of all my flights so far on Cathay Pacific. The braised beef was tendered and well seasoned without being too salty. I loved the slight bitterness of the jade melon that cut the fattiness of the beef. And, of course, I love rice so it helped round out the meal. The carrot, corn, raisin, and honey mustard salad was delicious too as was the small chocolate ice cream for dessert.
Dinner service started a few hours before our arrival at around 9:30PM Hong Kong time. This time I ordered the chicken, sand ginger sauce, and steamed jasmine rice. Before I even ate the dish, I noticed that Economy passengers had real silverware as utensils, the first time I ever had that for meal service on the flight since the late 1990s on an American Airlines transcontinental flight. Of course, having silverware or pasticware doesn’t necessarily denote the quality of the meal. In this case, the chicken was pretty good, if a little dry, and I really liked the savory sand ginger sauce. Unfortunately, there was too little sauce meaning that 1/3 of the meal was just eating plain rice, which was alright with me. I liked the panna cotta as well, but given that I had cup noodles and a few packets of peanuts midflight, I wasn’t able to finish it.
All in all, this pair of flights really highlighted the potential good quality of meals you can find, even on Economy, on Cathay Pacific. While none of the dishes are going to win awards and praise if they were served at a land based restaurant, they certainly beat the cold sandwiches with 60%+ dry, bland bread that you would have to cough up $10+ for on an American domestic flight. I am delightfully looking forward to the meal on my next Cathay Pacific flight, on business class from New York to Vancouver.