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Three on the Bund puts on a show of survivability

LUXURY food and beverage collection Three on the Bund hosted a lavish gala dinner last week to put to bed persistent rumors of its imminent demise.

The historic Bund building, with a mixture of gallery space, retail and food and beverage outlets, was dogged by talk that poor business during the economic crisis, coupled with the departure of key personnel such as former CEO Alan Hepburn, would sound the death knell for the project.

The grand event, featuring dishes from each of the building's four dining outlets, was meant to silence the nay sayers and paint a rosy picture in light of the alleged infighting that goes on behind closed doors.

While the management structure of parent company, House of Three, has come under much derision from industry insiders, punters have always been more concerned with what gets served on the plate, even though it must be noted the most vocal speculators are those who have not even visited the premises within the last year.

The gala event was hosted in the building's second-floor event space, opulently decorated with hanging vines and spring flora. A Champagne reception set the mood for the 168 guests, comprised mainly of captains of industry, before they were whisked in for a delightful evening of wining and dining. While eagerly anticipated, the world's sexiest man Hugh Jackman was unable to grace the occasion as his daughter had fallen ill the night before and the doting father scrambled to have her medevaced.

First, a disclaimer. The event space does not have a kitchen of its own, so each dish had to be prepared in each outlets' own kitchen and finished downstairs. This also helped the chefs stay out of each other's way.

Unfortunately, this meant some of the dishes, while well-conceived, did not hit the same heights achieved in the individual restaurants. This was always going to be the case when catering for so many people.

Headlining the act was celebrity chef Jean Georges Vongerichten, possibly one of the most successful chef-cum-restaurateurs in the world. In town to install new executive chef Lam Ming Kin to fill the large shoes vacated by his predecessor Eric Johnson, Vongerichten was his usual bubbly self throughout the visit and took time to visit the local fish and vegetable markets with this reporter (look out for an EXCLUSIVE in next week's Shanghai Daily).

His dish of Oscetra caviar (from neighboring Qiandao Lake, Zhejiang Province) with slow-cooked organic egg yolk with fresh herbs on toasted brioche was a lesson on using great artistry to turn something so simple into an understated luxury. The texture of the egg was beautiful to behold, even if the toast was a little too dry from finishing in the oven.

Next up was New Heights' Xavier Mauerhofer with a royale of spring morels with light Jerusalem artichoke veloute and a morsel of foie gras. This was another play in texture, although the savory duck liver was a little superfluous in the overall dish. Mushrooms on the Chinese mainland are simply outstanding, and this dish only had to rely on the fungus to shine.

Whampoa Club's Yap Poh Weng provided the entre, braised Yangtze fugu with spring bamboo shoots. This was not the poisonous variety sought after by foodies around the world, but the braise was tasty enough to present the flaky fish.

The piece de resistance was provided by David Laris and his main man, Jason Oakley. The classic beef in vine leaves was given an Aussie twist by being roasted in eucalyptus, giving a mintiness that drowned out the black truffles that were added for a touch of luxury. The green sweet peas and spring onion salad made good use of seasonal produce to enhance the dish.

Guests were then treated to a magnificent recital by child pianist Niu Niu.

Pudding was arguably the best course of the evening, once more provide by Jean Georges Vongerichten and his new local pastry chef Louie Ye. The almond souffle cake with roasted strawberries was expertly executed, and the seaweed was an unexpected delight.


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