Long gone are the days of ice sculptures and crepe suzette served up as a matter of course in first class cabins on airliners.
But what is presented to premium passengers can still rival some top hotels or restaurants, and can often act as a good barometer for the health of an airline's fortunes.
"When times get tough, food is one of the costs airlines can cut without jeopardizing safety," says Andreas Weber, general manager of airline catering company, Gate Gourmet.
"It has changed back and forth (over time); airlines go through crises," he says. "(Today) more airlines are investing substantially in their first and business class products. Making people comfortable in big seats, everyone is doing that already, but what is left is the catering experience."
What linked them, and other famous faces, was their promotion of Japanese whisky, each sipping it in TV advertisements like it was nectar of the gods.
Bill Murray's sardonic character in "Lost in Translation" may have mocked the image of sophistication that Japanese whisky manufacturers liked to portray from the 1970 to the 1990s, but since 2001, Japanese whisky has been steadily picking up awards and gaining the plaudits of international whisky connoisseurs without the need for a knowing smirk or wink.
A chopstick making company has whittled down broken baseball bats so sushi can be shoveled with a swing.
Hyozaemon specializes in traditional hand-crafted eating utensils and in 2000 introduced their "kattobashi" chopsticks. The name is a play on words combining the Japanese word for chopsticks, "hashi," with a familiar chant heard at Japanese baseball games.
About 20,000 bats, used and abused by pro and amateur players, turn up at Hyozaemon's workshop each year. So it's a good bet the bats of Godzilla himself, Hideki Matsui, in his pre-Major League Baseball days, will have ended up on a Japanese dining table at some point over the years.
During a Japanese tea ceremony, remember to slurp the last drops of tea from the bowl.
Among all the etiquette and quietude of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, the slurping might seen out place, but it’s a more than acceptable way of saying thank you.
“Nosily drinking the last of the tea means that the guest has enjoyed it,” says Shirai Yayoi, a tea master for over 50 years.
Over that period she has perfected all the elements of “chado” that when translate to English is closer to “tea-ism” than tea ceremony. It’s more apt, too, as all the training of a tea master and the rituals of the ceremony date back to Japan’s medieval samurai society and are underpinned by four principles from Zen Buddhism: harmony, tranquility, respect and purity.
A sweet-tooth in Japan isn’t hard to satisfy. The country’s convenience stores are stocked with a range of intriguing confectionery, but often you’ve got to be quick to catch them.
A short shelf life isn’t because products like Hokkaido cheese chocolate are snapped up by hordes of roving umami-hunters, but because perpetual revolution of a product range is the key to survival for brands in Japan.
Shigeharu Asagiri loves beer so much he has even brewed it by the light of the moon.
He’s not a bathtub hootcher with vampiric tendencies, but the boss of Japanese microbrewery Coedo and a man committed to putting his craft beer on the map, no matter what it takes.
His nighttime brewing activity came just after the earthquake that rocked Japan’s Tohoku region last March led to frequent blackouts at his brewery just outside Tokyo.
From those difficult days and dark nights, Coedo has continued to make some award-winning beers that are helping to put the spotlight on interesting microbrews from Japan.
You’d like a teenage girl to serve you tea while dressed in a cutesy maid outfit? You got it. You want to dine on a gurney in an Alcatraz ER-themed restaurant or eat burgers surrounded by life-size anime characters? No problem. Just get yourself to Tokyo, the city seemingly teaming with 24-hour cartoon craziness and the embodiment of "wacky Japan."
But away from these Japanese stereotypes, there is a growing scene of altogether more grown-up concept cafés fusing areas to eat and drink with spaces for business meetings and relaxation.
Called “third spaces” (home and office are the other two), these hybrid cafés are aiming to sate the need of a busy, trend-hungry population with a one-stop shop for work and play.
How do you make a 1,200-year-old drink, hip? One way is by calling it the “new wine” and making it an essential ingredient in killer cocktails. That’s what’s happened to sake, the rice-based liquor that is associated with all that is traditional about Japan. Yet from its origins in Shinto ceremonies in the 8th century and its place modern-day weddings, it is currently undergoing a revival.
It may be a laggard compared to sushi in its global appeal but it is increasingly popular among connoisseurs of Japanese cuisine, says Kelvin Zeia, the sake sommelier of Japanese restaurant Zuma in Hong Kong.
“The palate goes from sweet to dry, but there are subtleties between different types of sake,” he says. The alcohol content of around 15% also means it can be a discreet mixer in cocktails.
In Hong Kong, where factory space is stacked in skyscrapers, the 15th floor of an industrial block houses vast tanks in which thousands of rare fish swim under the eerie, purple glow of UV lights.
Normally found thousands of miles away on the reefs of the tropics, the coral grouper are being bred on land in one of the world's most densely populated metropolises to feed a local population that consumes 3.6 times the global average in seafood.
Sold live, fish like leopard coral grouper are highly valued in China, where ostentatious dining calls for expensive and attractive centerpieces for celebratory or business banquets - last week during the Lunar new Year a single fish could cost around $130.
But even the tons of fish swimming in the tanks of OceanEthix incongruous high rise facility can't sate a growing market for live reef fish in Hong Kong and mainland China that is worth around $1 billion each year.