Dragonair has partnered with Hugo’s, the fine-dining restaurant of Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Tsim Sha Tsui, to develop a new menu of inflight European dishes. The new offerings are now available to first and business class passengers flying on selected Dragonair flights between Hong Kong and Beijing as well as Shanghai.
Business Traveller Asia-Pacific attended a tasting event hosted by both parties, and sampled some of the dishes created for Dragonair by the hotel’s executive chef Michael Donlevy. These included Hugo’s signature lobster bisque and peppered beef tenderloin.
Various factors do have to be considered when designing an inflight menu, including the fact that human taste buds tend to become less sensitive to salt at higher altitudes. Therefore, dishes served inflight tend to have stronger and bolder flavours than those served on the ground.
According to Xavier Pech, general manager of the hotel, the dishes served at the tasting session were designed and seasoned just as they would be inflight. This explained the slightly saltier taste of each dish, but this did not detract from the overall experience.
The full tasting menu included:
Lobster salad – This simple mix of lobster meat on a bed of sliced potato highlights the “less is more” philosophy. The crustacean was very fresh, and it was firm but not chewy.
Iberico ham, cherry tomato and bocconcini salad, basil – My personal favourite of the three appetisers. The sweetness of the cherry tomatos helped to balance out the saltiness of the Iberico ham, and the small sprig of basil in turn perfumed each bite wonderfully. Tomatoes contain umami components that are not affected by altitude, which makes the fruit an ideal ingredient for inflight dishes.
Fresh crab salad a la Russe – A flavoursome creation that consisted of a mix of peas, potatos, carrots, and celery topped generously with crab meat and trout caviar. I found the dish subtle in seasoning and refreshing, with the crispness of the green peas providing a nice contrast to creaminess the crab meat. The fear, though, is that the mild flavours may be lost in midair.
Soup (all sampled soups are available only on first class)
Green pea soup, Champagne, lardons – I’ll admit that green peas aren’t my favourite ingredient, but I was pleasently surprised by this soup. The dish was light – something difficult to achieve in a pureed soup with cream – and the champagne gave it a slightly sweet aftertaste. Finally, the lardons added savouriness and texture.
Lobster bisque – One of the most popular dishes on Hugo’s menu, and I could clearly see why. At the bottom of my soup cup was a generous helping of fresh lobster meat, and like the green pea soup, the dish was not heavy. The taste of lobster was not overly pungent, but very fragrant and reminiscent of comfort food.
French onion soup – For me, the weakest of the three. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, but there didn’t seem to be anything particularly special about it.
Pan-fried Norwegian salmon fillet, crayfish tails, caper parsley sauce – The salmon was cooked perfectly, and the result was that the meat was soft and moist. The caper parsley sauce helped reduce the fishy taste of the salmon, and the crayfish tails were also well complemented by it. I had doubts as to whether the same consistency could be achieved when the fish was reheated in the galley, as salmon gets dry and coarse very easily, but I suppose in first class where the staff ratio is high, more personal attention could be paid to the reheating time of this dish.
Peppered beef tenderloin, seasonal vegetables, pepper sauce (business) – Another favourite at Hugo’s. The star of this dish has to be the cut of beef (Australian according to Xavier Pech), which was absolutely exquisite. My knife cut through the tenderloin like butter, and the meat was a perfect medium rare. The lone complaint that I had for this dish was that the peppercorn-covered crust of the beef made the dish a little too fiery. Patrick Yeung, chief executive of Dragonair who was sitting at the same table as mine, said that the airline might reduce the amount of crushed peppercorns in the dish to better accommodate a wide range of customers’ palates.
Also, the temperature of the beef came into question, as I was skeptical that this could be done well inflight. Xavier Pech informed me that the flight team at Dragonair would be provided with a set of instructions on the length of the reheating process, in order to achieve the right temperature. Yeung likewise said he was confident that his team at Dragonair could deliver similar results as long as there weren’t any unexpected problems during the flights, such as a shortened meal service due to extended periods of turbulence.
For more information, visit www.dragonair.com