Birthday Bar

It’s a rainy summer morning in Hong Kong, and after the redeye from Bangalore I don’t know if it’s still my birthday or not. I think it isn’t here, but will be when I get home. The international date line is weird like that.

After texting my wife and making my way through security, I head to Cathay Pacific’s Wing Lounge and grab a scotch to sip (don’t judge, it’s 5pm somewhere) as I watch the planes and ground crews navigate their polkas on the slick tarmac.

Then I remember that this lounge has a feature to explore.

Tucked away upstairs behind the coffee lounge and the bar is a uniquely Hing Kong amenity, a noodle bar.

In an elegantly modern space lined with black marble and bamboo, two women tireless churn out local noodle dishes prepared to order. The top of the short 4-item menu is the star, the Dan Dan noodles.

A black bowl on a black tray quickly arrived on the black counter. Simple thin noodles swim in a thick, creamy broth made with coconut milk and peanut. When you slide on over to the edge of the counter to grab a spoon and chopsticks, don’t forget to dress it up with a dash of chili oil, toasted garlic, green onions, and to cut the fatty broth, some Chinese red vinegar and pickled vegetables.

Slurping up the rich warm broth contrasted with the cool refreshing vinegar and pickles makes a delectable experience. A palate of familiar flavors wrapped up in a new package.

This is comfort food.

Takeoff Tacos

I wait in the OneWorld lounge at the international terminal at LAX (status has its perks) and I can’t help but notice I’m enjoying the food. There’s the expected spread of fruits, some buffet salads and sides, a vegetarian pasta and some kind of Indian chicken dish which is tender and well cooked, but a little boring. Of course there’s all the top-shelf bourbon you can drink.

But what stands out is a quintessential LA treat. They operate a taco stand, inside the lounge! Options are limited, chicken quesadillas and beef tacos, but hey, this beats a generic burger or dry grilled chicken breast. I grabbed two tacos. Sadly, the cart is freestanding so the tortillas aren’t freshly grilled, and to appeal to the bland international traveler’s expectations, they use flour instead of corn. But the meat is well seasoned and very tender. Topped with a black bean and corn salsa, some slaw, a hit of sour cream, and several shakes of chipotle tabasco and you’re served up with the closest thing to “real” Mexican food that you’re likely to find inside the sterile confines of the airport terminal.

Lounging around

If you fly premium economy on Vistara airlines, you have the opportunity to buy lounge access in Mumbai for $15. It’s totally worth it. Alcohol and spa treatment are charged extras, but the free food, drinks, and luxurious toilets in Mumbai’s new Terminal 2 lounge make the hectic nature of Indian travel something you can avoid. The terminal itself is gorgeous, well maintained, and full of luxury shopping and dining. So even without lounge access, T2 is clearly worth waiting in.

The buffet had a smattering of western pasta dishes and some local favorites. Heaped on my plate is some roti (flatbread), butter chicken, a “sticky chicken” sandwich, and a chocolate brownie. The sandwich, I think was a typo that should have been “spicy chicken”. It’s a chicken salad with peppers and some various curry spices on brown bread. The butter chicken was just the right amount of spice, and the basmati rice perfectly cooked.

So splurge on that $15. If you buy a lunch and latte at the Starbucks in the terminal you’ll probably spend about as much, and wouldn’t have free wifi.

A last taste of home

It’s been a while – so let’s pick things up as I sit in the terminal waiting for my flight. Recently LAX built a whole new international terminal with a pleathora of flagship dining options. We opted for Umami Burger, that SoCal chain that gets even more rabid fan frothing than In N Out. 

While the choices are limited, the definitely hold up to their equivalents at full locations, although u was surprised they didn’t carry the signature namesake Umami Burger. So instead I took my second favorite, the Manly Burger with loads of beer cheddar and bacon. Pearl went with my second fav, the Hatch Burger with a grilled Hatch chile pepper.

While the cool wrapper was a neat touch, the selection was sad, and they were out of key ingredients for the location-signature “LAX Burger” with port onions and Stilton Blue. Worst of all was the lack of the usual extravagent beer selection. We were limited to 4 domestic macrobrews 🙁

All in all a little disappointing for those familiar with Umami, but still a fantastic option for terminal dining.