Dining Review: Tian in Vienna, Austria

Tian in Vienna is one of only three Michelin-starred restaurants in the world that I’m aware of that doesn’t serve meat. Joia in Milan is another. I went to Tian for lunch and had a great, affordable vegan meal.

Entrance to Tian

Entrance to Tian

I loved the interior of the restaurant. Super airy with high ceilings. It felt interesting and bright.

Dining room

Dining room

For lunch that day, they offered the choice of 2 or 3 (or more) courses from the light lunch menu, or you could order a 4-, 6-, or 8-course tasting menu. I asked for 3 vegan courses from the light lunch menu (although no vegan dessert option was listed, they substituted a vegan dessert course for me).

Lunch menu

Lunch menu

The amuse bouche was a mushroom foam. It was tasty and savory like any good mushroom foam should be, although it was quite salty.

Amuse bouche

Amuse bouche

The bread service consisted of a delicious house-made ciabatta served with three kinds of olive oil, an extremely rich butter that was almost cheesy, and some sprouts. I’ve never been served sprouts with my bread, but I enjoyed it. It was fun and unusual.

Sprouts with bread service

Sprouts with bread service

As a starter, I received turnips and cabbage. I felt that my dish was a bit confusing, but it was decent.

Turnips and cabbage

Turnips and cabbage

My dining partner had the asparagus as a starter. I felt that the preparation of asparagus at Tian was better than the asparagus dish I had eaten at Steirereck the day before.

Asparagus

Asparagus

My main consisted of sunchokes and spelt. It was a hearty dish and a large portion, although perhaps a little one-note. It could have benefited from some acidity or freshness. My dining partner had the risotto, which was an absolutely massive portion.

Sunchokes and spelt

Sunchokes and spelt

For dessert, I received a plate of chocolate and passionfruit. I loved the presentation, and it was extremely tasty. The brightness and acidity of the passionfruit was a nice contrast to the sinful decadence of the chocolate.

Chocolate and passionfruit

Chocolate and passionfruit

My dining partner had a sour cream strudel, which she also greatly enjoyed.

Apple tart

Sour cream strudel

Overall, the lunch menu was extremely affordable, and I thought the food was quite solid. The three-course lunch menu was only 34 euro, and I’d love to return for the full tasting menu at some point.

Now, even the NYTimes is writing about the CSR…

You know it’s bad when even mainstream media outlets like the New York Times are writing about a credit card and the buzz it’s generating. (In full disclosure, I applied and was approved for a Chase Sapphire Reserve card)

All I’ll say right now is that you should get on the gravy train while it lasts. The CSR offers some ridiculous value with the 3x points on travel and dining and 1.5 cent redemption rate, which essentially means 4.5% back on those categories. I don’t see that rate of cash back as sustainable over the long run. If you think that something is too good to last, it probably is.

In recent years, one prominent example was the Club Carlson credit cards. 5x earning plus 1 night free on any award stay, and you could book two award stays back-to-back with a personal and business card to get 4 nights for the price of 2 award nights. Ridiculous value, so it got gutted.

More recently, the Citi Prestige credit card offered 1.6 cents back when buying American Airlines flights. If you had an old Citi Forward card, that meant 8% back on dining. They quickly gutted the Citi Forward. But the Citi Prestige card still meant 4.8% back on travel and 3.2% back on dining by itself, but they’ve lowered that to 1.25 cents per point. And of course there was the wonderful Admirals Club access (with guests), but that benefit is going away too.

Granted, there’s no ancillary benefit that I see as unsustainable with the Chase Sapphire Reserve (like the Admirals Club access afforded by the Citi Prestige), so maybe I’m wrong. Priority Pass membership really isn’t that useful unless you live in the Northwest (and have access to Alaska Airlines Board Rooms) or travel internationally, so I don’t think most cardholders will use it that much. But a 100k bonus is quite tempting, especially for a relatively low minimum spend requirement.

Dining Review: Steirereck in Vienna, Austria

One restaurant that I dined at in Vienna was Steirereck, a two Michelin star restaurant. I went for lunch, which was more affordable experience than dinner.

Steirereck is located in a somewhat funky reflective building in Stadtpark. The park itself is also quite nice, if you get a chance to walk around.

Funk building

Funk building

Entrance to Steirereck

Entrance to Steirereck

We were the first guests to arrive for the lunch service. The decor inside was understated and elegant. There are a couple of separate dining areas, so it feels like a more intimate dining experience since you don’t see all of the diners in the entire restaurant.

Table decoration

Table decoration

I went for the four-course lunch menu, as I chose to skip the cheese course.

Menu

Menu

We started with selections from the bread cart. I sampled the black pudding and blood sausage bread as well as the rye bread with honey and lavender. One small downside (or upside depending on your perspective) was that we got the end pieces of the loaves since we were the first table served for lunch.

Ridiculous bread cart

Ridiculous bread cart

The breads themselves were delicious and served with three sticks of butter with different toppings. Not pictured here were the amuse bouches that we were served.

Bread service

Bread service

My first course was the char with beeswax, yellow carrot, “pollen”, and sour cream, one of the signature dishes of the restaurant. It’s a slightly gimmicky dish in that they come out with the char and pour the beeswax in front of you (and then take it away so it cooks), but the char was cooked perfectly and it was absolutely delicious. The caviar served on the side was great, as was the jelly infused with beeswax. A super inventive and wonderful dish.

Char being cooked in beeswax

Char being cooked in beeswax

Cooked char, yellow carrot, "pollen", and sour cream

Cooked char, yellow carrot, “pollen”, and sour cream

My next course was green asparagus with sheep’s cheese, daylilies, and bergamot. To me, this was the biggest miss of the meal. I was hoping for a treatment of vegetables like you might find at L’arpege or Manresa, but this was just not that great.

Green asparagus with sheep's cheese, daylilies, and bergamot

Green asparagus with sheep’s cheese, daylilies, and bergamot

My main course was the charcoal grilled tubers with tumeric “caviar” and shoots. This was a giant portion and generally tasty, but it wasn’t that remarkable otherwise.

Charcoal grilled tubers with turmeric "caviar" and shoots

Charcoal grilled tubers with turmeric “caviar” and shoots

My dining companion ordered the cheese course, and out came an enormous cheese cart. There are so, so many choices in front of you. I’m not a big cheese person, but it might be worth it to order the cheese course just for this experience.

Ridiculous cheese cart

Ridiculous cheese cart

Cheese service

Cheese service

The dessert courses were great and satisfying. My dining companion had an absolutely delectable souffle; I had a wonderful preserved calamansi (a citrus fruit) with cream cheese, gingerbread, and walnuts. Interesting flavors, good contrasting textures, and not too sweet. Everything I want in dessert.

Souffle

Souffle

Preserved calamansi with cream cheese, gingerbread, and walnuts

Preserved calamansi with cream cheese, gingerbread, and walnuts

Finally, there were some petit fours from the kitchen. They were cute, if a little simple.

Petit fours

Petit fours

Peek into the kitchen

Peek into the kitchen

Overall, it was an enjoyable dining experience. The char was by far the best dish of the meal, but otherwise, I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend this restaurant.

Hotel Review: Radisson Blu Style Hotel Vienna, Austria

I stayed at the Radisson Blu Style Hotel in Vienna on a trip to central Europe last year. I booked this hotel with points when Club Carlson was still offering a one award night free for every award booking and when the highest category of hotel was only 50k points (instead of 70k points). In spite of the devaluations on the award redemption side, Club Carlson can still offer some great values in Europe, especially if you’re into manufactured spending since the credit card still offers 5x points on all spend.

This hotel has a super great location. It’s conveniently located just steps from the Herrengasse station on the U3 subway line, and it’s within walking distance to much of the inner stadt. It’s also right next to Cafe Central (although I found that place to be overrated).

Entrance to the hotel

Entrance to the hotel

I tried to check in early to the hotel (a consequence of most flights from the US to Europe is the early morning arrival times). The agent at the front desk told me that the hotel room would be ready in 30 minutes, so I left my luggage and went for a short walk.

Hotel lobby

Hotel lobby

I was assigned a twin room. The room had a slightly odd shape, but it was comfortable and quiet. The furnishings were basic but perfectly adequate, and I enjoyed the decor of the room.

Twin beds

Twin beds

TV and desk

TV and desk

Bathroom

Bathroom

As a welcome amenity for being a Club Carlson Gold member (a benefit of the credit card), I received a small bottle of champagne.

Welcome amenity

Welcome amenity

Hotel bar

Hotel bar

The hotel had a small sauna as well as a very basic gym for guests to use.

Sauna

Sauna

Basic gym

Basic gym

In general, the staff was very friendly and attentive, and I enjoyed my stay. This hotel was a great deal at 50k Club Carlson points for 2 nights, but I’m not sure how I feel about 70k points per night now. But it’s a great location with comfortable rooms and good service.

The Basics of Airline Alliances

There are three main airline alliances in the world: Star Alliance, SkyTeam, and oneworld. Why are airline alliances important? Most practically, they’re useful for 1) earning miles; 2) redeeming miles; and 3) offering reciprocal benefits.

1) Earning Miles
Essentially all airlines have their own frequent flyer programs, but miles are usually only worth something if you surpass certain minimum thresholds in a single program. For example, it’s not worthwhile to have 5k miles across 5 different programs (unless you like magazines), but 25k miles in 1 program can usually get you a free flight. How do you deal with this if you fly lots of different airlines?

This is where airline alliances come in. If I fly on British Airways, I don’t have to credit my miles to British Airways Avios–I can instead credit my miles to American Airlines since both are oneworld partners. This means that I can focus on earning miles in one specific program, which makes it easier to reach the minimum thresholds necessary for good redemptions. This also applies to earning miles for status and not just redemption. So your flights within an alliance can all be credited to one airline to help you reach that next tier of airline status on a single airline.

Note that airlines often have airline partners outside their alliances. One notable case of this is Alaska Airlines. Alaska Airlines isn’t a member of any of the three major alliances, but you can often think of them as a oneworld airline since they partner with so many of the oneworld airlines. For example, you can credit Alaska flights to American Airlines and vice versa.

One thing that often takes people by surprise is that mileage earning isn’t consistent across partners. In the past, you earned miles on the legacy US carriers based on miles flown (this has now changed to be based on dollars spent on the major three). For most airline partners, you generally earn a percentage of the miles flown based on your fare class, and many of the cheapest fare classes offer only 25% (or even 0%) miles. So oftentimes it’s worth checking how many miles you’d earn if you credited a flight to a certain partner based on your fare class, but this is getting into a more advanced topic for another post.

2) Redeeming Miles
Want to go to Bangkok but only have American miles? While American Airlines doesn’t serve Bangkok as a destination, their partners do, so you can still redeem American Airlines miles on their partner airlines to get to Bangkok (in this case, your likely options would be Cathay Pacific through Hong Kong or Japan Airlines through Tokyo).

This is probably the best part of airline alliances. If you could only redeem your miles on that airline (which is true of some programs!), then you’d be severely limited on where your miles could take you. But thanks to airline alliances, your miles can take you anywhere the alliance flies (which is essentially any major destination for the three largest alliances).

Again, one thing to keep in mind is that airlines often have partners outside of their alliance. For example, Hawaiian Airlines isn’t a member of any of the major alliances, but they partner with American and United, so you can redeem your American or United miles on certain Hawaiian flights.

3) Reciprocal Benefits
Airline alliance members also generally offer reciprocal benefits to frequent flyers who have status on a partner airline. These benefits are things like dedicated check-in lines, priority boarding, free checked bags, and lounge access.

Lounge access is a favorite of mine and is particularly relevant for international itineraries. For oneworld airlines, if you have oneworld Emerald status (the highest frequent flyer status across oneworld airlines), then you have access to any oneworld First Class lounge on international itineraries. This gets you access to awesome lounges like the Cathay Pacific First Class Pier lounge in Hong Kong or the Qantas First Class lounge in Sydney, even if you’re flying on an economy class ticket.

Note that each airline has different qualification criteria for their own levels of elite status, and those different levels correspond to different levels of alliance elite status. And each alliance has different benefits for different levels of alliance elite status (e.g. Star Alliance Gold, the highest level of status in Star Alliance, doesn’t offer First Class lounge access).

This is just a primer on why airline alliances are practically important for travelers, but if you fly relatively frequently, especially internationally, then it might be worthwhile to concentrate your flying within one specific alliance to reap some of these benefits.

Here are the three main alliances and their members:

Star Alliance: Adria, Aegean, Air Canada, Air China, Air India, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana, Austrian, Avianca, Brussels, Copa, Croatia Airlines, EgyptAir, Ethiopian, EVA, LOT, Lufthansa, SAS, Shenzhen, Singapore, South African, Swiss, TAP Portugal, Thai, Turkish, and United

SkyTeam: Aeroflot, Aerolineas Argentinas, Aeromexico, Air Europa, Air France, Alitalia, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Czech, Delta, Garuda Indonesia, Kenya, KLM, Korean, Middle East, Saudia, TAROM, Vietnam, and Xiamen

oneworld: Air Berlin, American, British, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, JAL, LATAM, Malaysia, Qantas, Qatar, Royal Jordanian, Sri Lankan, and S7

Lounge Review: Cathay Pacific Lounge Bangkok Airport (BKK) Renovated

Cathay Pacific renovated their lounge at BKK recently, and I have to say that this new lounge is a MASSIVE improvement over their old lounge. Their old lounge was tiny and crowded and had bad food options, and this renovated lounge is just so much better. It’s very similar in decor and feeling to their renovated Pier lounge at HKG, and I was such a fan of that lounge that it’s no surprise that I loved this lounge as well.

The Cathay lounge is located near the G gates, and the entrance is relatively understated.

Entrance to the lounge

Entrance to the lounge

The lounge is quite long with a variety of seating areas, a cafe-type area, and a noodle bar. To the right is where most of the lounge seating is located. There are a variety of seating options and configurations, and all of the furniture is quite comfortable and functional. There are also outlets everywhere (they’re located in the desks if you don’t see other ones), which is such a great thing to have in a lounge.

Seating area

Seating area

More seating with loungers overlooking the apron

More seating with loungers overlooking the apron

Looking down the lounge

Looking down the lounge

Computer stations

Computer stations

More seating, including the semi-private green chairs

More seating, including the semi-private green chairs

I enjoyed sitting in the loungers which face the windows so you can do some airplane spotting, as well as the semi-private green chairs which are great for getting work done.

Apron views

Apron views

The right-hand side also includes a full-service bar. I’m not a big alcohol drinker, so it’s great that Cathay offers a couple of non-alcoholic cocktails, including their signature Cathay Delight! So tasty.

Full bar

Full bar

Bar menu

Bar menu

Right in front of the entrance to the lounge (so in the middle of it lengthwise) is a cafe-type area with some standing tables, some bar seating, and a variety of lighter foods on offer. There are salads (lettuce, papaya, bean, and fruit), some snacks (mashed potatoes and some sort of macaroni), fresh fruit (including rambutan!), yogurt, sandwiches, cookies, and desserts (creme caramel and pandan cake). I love that they have rambutan on offer (even though I don’t actually like rambutan that much), as I just think it’s so great when lounges can offer local, seasonal fruits rather than just the same old melon selection. The creme caramel and pandan cake were also delicious, although I have a major sweet tooth.

Cafe food area

Cafe food area

Salads

Salads

Fresh fruit and small snacks

Fresh fruit and small snacks

Desserts, yogurt, drinks

Desserts, yogurt, drinks

Sandwiches and cookies

Sandwiches and cookies

Finally, at the other end of the lounge (or the area to the left as you enter) is the noodle bar. The noodle bar has tons of seating with both booths of varying sizes as well as some communal tables. They have the typical dan dan mien that you expect from Cathay Pacific, but they also have pad thai on the menu as well as some dim sum. I also LOVE the fact that they have a separate vegetarian menu.

Noodle bar seating

Noodle bar seating

Communal tables and booths

Communal tables and booths

Noodle bar

Noodle bar

Noodle bar menu

Noodle bar menu

I sampled the veggie pad thai, the sago dumplings, and the mushroom noodle soup. The veggie pad thai unfortunately tasted ketchup-y and lacked the wok hei (wok breath) that makes pad thai so great, but at least they had the full selection of pad thai accompaniments (peanuts, limes, sugar, chili flakes, vinegar with chilis, etc.) so you can adjust the flavoring. The sago dumplings were absolutely delicious, though, and the mushroom noodle soup was decent as well. The portions are on the smaller side, so don’t feel shy about ordering multiple portions! I saw a table of two guys put down about 10 dishes between the two of them.

Veggie pad thai and sago dumplings

Veggie pad thai and sago dumplings

I must sound like a total Cathay Pacific fanboy given how much I’ve raved about their renovated Pier lounges at HKG (both the business class and first class lounges), but I just think Cathay Pacific has done such a good job with their rebranding and lounge redesigns. This lounge is no different. I love the design, and the lounges just feel so cozy and have such solid amenities. If I have any criticisms, the wifi is a bit slow, the lounge can get a bit crowded, and the cushions in the booths have this weird thing where they’re not attached in the backs so if you sit forward too far the cushion comes up. But this is an awesome, awesome lounge, and one of my favorite non-hub airline lounges that I’ve visited.

Lounge Review: Oman Air Lounge Bangkok Airport (BKK)

I accessed the Oman Air lounge at Bangkok airport (BKK) via Priority Pass. This lounge is located in the E concourse, so it’s convenient for oneworld flights (which all depart from the E, F, or G gates).

Directions to all of the lounges once you pass security and immigration

Directions to all of the lounges once you pass security and immigration

Entrance to the Oman Air lounge

Entrance to the Oman Air lounge

Upon entering, I was immediately impressed by the decor of lounge. A lot of Priority Pass-accessible lounges can be a bit sad-looking, but this was nice and bright. The lounge has an appealing blue and gold color scheme, and there a variety of interesting decorations.

It’s not a huge lounge, but there’s a lot of seating packed in. To the right is a room full of seating with comfortable couches and chairs. To the back of this room are two recliners, and you can draw a curtain for some privacy.

Main seating area to the right

Main seating area to the right

One of the recliners with some privacy

One of the recliners with some privacy

Fruit display

Fruit display

The other room has more seating as well as the rest of the lounge’s amenities. The drink options were extensive, featuring Arabic coffee and dates as well as lots of different liquors and wines (including champagne). The fridge below had your usual assortment of sodas, beers, and water, but there was also Milo!

More seating and computers

More seating and computers

Coffee (including Arabic coffee)

Coffee (including Arabic coffee)

Dates

Dates

Alcohol selection

Alcohol selection

Refrigerated beverages

Refrigerated beverages

The food options are slightly less impressive, but still pretty decent for a Priority Pass-accessible lounge. There was dried fruit, mixed nuts, ingredients to make a salad, pickles and olives, canapes, sandwiches, breads, fruits, cupcakes, and a variety of hot foods. The hot food options when I visited included biryani, samosas, chicken puffs, chicken kebabs, and penne. The food that I sampled (a samosa, some fruit, and a cupcake) were all fine.

Canapes

Canapes

Breads and fruit

Breads and fruit

Hot food items

Hot food items

Wifi in the lounge was decently fast (3.79 Mbps down; 1.95 Mbps up), and there were some outlets available. There’s also a work table available with outlets, as well as a shower room that looked clean.

Work table

Work table

Shower room

Shower room

Please don't wash your feet in the bathroom sink

Please don’t wash your feet in the bathroom sink

If you’re using Priority Pass at BKK, I think that the Oman Air lounge is a better option than the Louis Tavern lounges, although not superior enough to make the trek to the E gates if your flight is leaving out of an A gate, for example. It was a super comfortable place to sit, it wasn’t very crowded, the wifi was fast, and the basics are all provided. Overall, quite a good Priority Pass-accessible lounge.

Flight Review: Japan Airlines (JAL) First Class CGK to NRT Boeing 777-300ER

This was my second flight on Japan Airlines first class. You can read a review of my first flight in JAL first here.

I was welcomed warmly on board. I’ve heard other people criticize JAL for having flight attendants who don’t have a great command of English, but English proficiency was high across the board for this crew. Four of the eight first class seats were occupied on this flight, and there were two other Asian people who don’t speak Japanese on this flight (or at least they preferred to converse with the flight attendants in English instead of Japanese).

I really like the first class cabin on JAL. I think it’s classy (except for the carpet), and the hard product is great. The seat is super wide and comfortable, the screen for the in-flight entertainment is large, and there’s lots of storage space for the seat (your bag can go underneath the foot rest/ottoman, and there are a number of side compartments for storage of smaller items like a laptop or glasses case). It’s also easy to look out the windows (unlike, say, the ANA First Square product).

JAL First Class seat 2K

JAL First Class seat 2K

Looking forward into 1K

Looking forward into 1K

IFE screen and foot area

IFE screen and foot area

IFE, seat controls, and side storage

IFE, seat controls, and side storage

More storage and power outlet

More storage and power outlet

Privacy divider up

Privacy divider up

There was an amenity kit waiting for me at my seat. This was different from the one that I had received on my prior flight flying from NRT to LAX, and I asked the flight attendant if the kits had recently changed. She told me that they hadn’t, and it turns out that JAL has different amenity kits for inbound vs outbound flights. I was also offered pajamas, a pre-departure beverage, a blanket, a menu, and a small set of Shiseido amenities for men.

Inbound first class male amenity kit

Inbound first class male amenity kit

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

I don’t really understand why they build airplanes without personal air vents. The cabin got super warm during taxiing and takeoff, but they corrected the cabin temperature and kept it much cooler for this flight than my previous JAL flight. I went to sleep immediately after takeoff on this flight, and I was able to sleep much better on this flight because the cabin was cooler.

I find the JAL bed to be quite comfortable. The seat is wide, so the sleeping space doesn’t feel constricted, and they have a thick mattress pad on top (you can choose between the “hard” side and the “soft” side for the mattress pad, although I’m not sure how much difference there is between the two functionally).

Made bed

Made bed

The crew on this flight was amazing. They were extremely attentive and friendly, and there was great attention to detail. For example, they would rearrange your slippers for you when you’re sleeping so that when you wake up, you can slip them on more easily. They also unwrapped the pajamas in front of you, and they were meticulous about the amount of time the tea was steeped for. I almost felt bad for sleeping through so much of the service because this crew was so great!

The flight from CGK to NRT is blocked for about 7.5 hours, which really isn’t that long for a red-eye flight, especially if you want to eat anything. I asked a flight attendant to wake me up 1.5 hours prior to landing so I could try out some of the food. For my meal service, I started off with the caviar. The caviar presentation is maybe not as elaborate as on other carriers, but it was quite tasty, and the spoon was actually made of mother of pearl and wasn’t just shiny plastic. JAL takes their food very seriously.

Caviar service

Caviar service

Up next I had the fruit plate. Although I’m not a huge fan of dragonfruit, it was surprisingly decent.

Fruit plate

Fruit plate

For my main course, I had the pancakes. They weren’t quite like American pancakes, and they were a tad dry, but they were delicious when eaten with the cream sauce they were served with.

Pancakes

Pancakes

As accompaniments, there was a marinated vegetable salad, yogurt, bread, and green tea jelly. Perhaps not the traditional assortment of Western breakfast accompaniments, but I enjoyed the green tea jelly.

Gelatin dessert

Marinated vegetables, green tea jelly dessert, yogurt

Soon after finishing my meal, we began the descent into NRT. The flight was scheduled to land at 6:35am, and we landed a bit early. One thing to keep in mind is that the JAL lounges at Narita airport don’t open until 7:30am! I found it super strange that they have flights that arrive about an hour before the lounge even opens (e.g. most carriers will make sure that their lounges stay open through the last departure, so you’d think that the lounges would open for the first arrival).

Saying goodbye to plane

Saying goodbye to plane at NRT

Overall, this was a great (if short) flight. The service on this segment was incredible, the food was solid, and the hard product is great. Definitely a great way to fly within Asia!

Lounge Review: Pura Indah Lounge Jakarta Airport (CGK)

It took me about an hour to get to the airport from the Grand Hyatt by taxi. I was flying JAL out of CGK, and at check-in, I was told that JAL uses the Pura Indah lounge.

Entrance to the lounge

Entrance to the lounge

There were a lot of different lounges at the airport, including a Citibank lounge. I didn’t realize that Citibank has its own lounges, but I also remembered seeing tons of Citibank advertising and deals at Plaza Indonesia, the mall connected to the Grand Hyatt. It seemed that many of the lounges in the international area of the terminal I was in (Terminal 2D) were accessible via Priority Pass, including this lounge that JAL (and many other airlines) uses.

The lounge has separate first and business class sections, but first class is just a room that’s less crowded. There was tons of seating and not that many people using the first class side.

Lounge seating

Lounge seating

Japanese newspapers for JAL passengers

Japanese newspapers for JAL passengers

In terms of food, there were a number of sweet options like cakes, pastries, fried bananas, and desserts wrapped in banana leaf, but savory options were limited to some chicken curry puffs, penne with eggplant, and soups. I thought the fried bananas were pretty tasty, but I’m a fat kid at heart and a sucker for most fried and/or sweet things.

The food options overall looked a little sad. It’s still a better food selection that you’d get at many US domestic lounges (although that seems to be changing), but because there weren’t that many passengers on the first class side, the food turnover was slow. So it was a bit unclear how long some of the food had been sitting there.

Drinks and refrigerated foods

Drinks and refrigerated foods

Sandwiches

Sandwiches

Pastries

Pastries

Soups

Soups

Fried bananas and banana leafs

Fried bananas and banana leaf desserts

More hot food

Hot savory food (chicken curry puff and eggplant penne)

The wifi in the lounge was quite slow, and there weren’t enough power outlets in the lounge, so it’s not a great place to sit and do work. There is a shower in the bathroom that looked reasonably clean, but I didn’t see any towels, so you might have to ask for those. But it didn’t seem like the shower got a ton of use.

Shower

Shower

Overall, this lounge is disappointing for a lounge at the airport of a major Asian city, but it’s better than waiting in the terminal. It’s also nice that it’s accessible via Priority Pass.

Hotel Review: Grand Hyatt Jakarta

For my relatively brief stay in Jakarta, I decided to redeem points for the Grand Hyatt Jakarta. Since it was a category 3 Hyatt property, it cost 12,000 points per night. Chain hotels in Jakarta are ridiculously pricey given how inexpensive other things in Jakarta are, as rates were over $300 USD per night, so I felt like I got a good redemption value by using points.

To get to the Hyatt, I took a Bluebird taxi from the airport. Everyone I talked to told me to only take Bluebird (or Silverbird) taxis, and you can tell that it’s the queue for the Bluebird taxis because there will actually be people waiting for those taxis. Don’t trust the people hanging around the Bluebird line unless they have a Bluebird shirt, as there are lots of touts trying to get you to take other taxis.

The taxi to the Grand Hyatt was 155k IDR, which included the toll and airport surcharge. Upon driving up to the hotel, there was a security check for the car (I believe they were using a mirror to look underneath the car), and there’s a baggage and metal detector for all people to enter the hotel.

The lobby of the hotel is quite nice and impressive. The service at the check-in counter was extremely friendly, and I was offered free breakfast, even though I wasn’t strictly entitled to that via status.

Lobby

Lobby

The room that I received was enormous. Not a suite, but a huge room that seemed well though out. There were plenty of outlets by the bed, the outlets were universal, the TV was on a swivel stand, and the furnishings were nice. I felt that it was a pretty nice Category 3 hotel (and it was a huge steal before when it was still a Cat 2!).

Bed

Bed

Furniture

Furniture

Minibar

Minibar

The bathroom was also a nice size. It didn’t have a Japanese toilet, but there was a bidet function.

Bathroom

Bathroom

Shower

Shower

The room also featured a nice view of the adjacent monument, which was also where there was a car-free walking street on the Sunday that I was there.

View from my room

View from my room

Other amenities available

Other amenities available

I didn’t use the gym during my stay, but it was a sizable space with a fair amount of equipment. One thing that I always appreciate about a gym is when there are free barbells and not just a Smith machine.

Gym

Gym

Gym

Gym

Gym

Gym

Gym

Gym

I had breakfast at the club lounge one day that I was there. The breakfast at the club was not as mobbed as I would have thought, and it featured pastries, juices, dairy beverages (including soy milk), whole fruit (including salak or snakeskin fruit), Asian breakfast foods like fried rice and noodles, congee, made-to-order eggs, breads, cheeses, and salads. It was a decent spread, but nothing special by Asian luxury hotel standards.

Club

Club

Lounge breakfast

Lounge breakfast

Refrigerated items

Refrigerated items

Cold cuts and yogurts

Cold cuts and yogurts

Breakfast

Breakfast

Breakfast

Hot items for breakfast

I had breakfast in the normal restaurant on another day, and the restaurant featured a more extensive buffet. I tried to take pictures, but I was told to stop because taking pictures of the food was apparently a security hazard for the hotel :/

One notable incident about my stay was that there was actually a fire at the hotel. The lobby was filled with smoke, the hotel was evacuated, and we weren’t allowed back into the hotel for several hours. Apparently there was a fire in one of the restaurant kitchens.

This hotel is connected to the Plaza Indonesia mall, which is a nice luxury mall. There’s an entrance to the mall within the lobby, which is convenient when it’s hot out. There’s also the Keraton at the Plaza hotel connected on the other side of the mall, which is a Category 5 SPG property.

Overall, I thought that this was a pretty decent Category 3 Hyatt hotel. Service at the hotel was good, my room was spacious and nicely furnished, and the hotel offers pretty decent amenities. Given how expensive cash rates can sometimes be, a points redemption can be a worthwhile option to consider.