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[Revisited]: The Pearl Tower Buffet
By Aug 6, 2009 Dining


You think you've taken all you can get out of the Pearl Tower -- some pictures, a crystal tower souvenir, the T-shirt. But you haven't. The Pearl Tower has a lot to give. A lot.

There's a rollercoaster in that pink rocket ship, somewhere. There are life-size models of E.T. At one point, there was a 20-room hotel in those barely-noticeable "steps" between the lower and middle globes, four rooms to the floor. When I called to book a suite, the perplexed employee on the other end asked me to send him the magazine article mentioning it, as proof that I wasn't making it all up. I can understand. It does sound too good to be true.

What remains is still pretty good -- the Oriental Pearl Sky Revolving Restaurant. It's a buffet of the sky, of tourism, of new perspectives, and a lot of mediocre food. But you expect that, and it's an easily forgiveable sin: the symbol of Shanghai does serve tater tots. The highest tater tots in the world. Enough tater tots to make a meal out of. There's plenty of other choices in the parade of gleaming chafing dishes and glass plates -- "French-style" snails, roasted duck, salads of the noodle and the green leaf, herbal soups, a seafood and sashimi buffet that disappears in a salmon-colored blur of arms, tongs, and greed. The only thing the poor cooks can do is squat behind the counter until the dust settles and then shovel the leftover bits of smoked salmon over to the tray of carefully folded bologna. There's plenty to eat, just nothing to remember.

But that's fine. The Oriental Pearl Sky Revolving Restaurant is fantastic in other ways. It was Barbie before Barbie could find Shanghai on a map -- pink, purple, sparkly. On drizzly nights, like the ones we've had this week, the exterior lights reflect off the low-lying clouds and create a subtle strobe effect. Added to the R&B and Mando-pop soundtrack, rough pink tablecloths, and chairs covered in white fabric, it's like there's a fabulous wedding going on, 267 meters up, every single night. The only thing is missing is the MC, but, at least last Tuesday, they even had details like an old white dude trying to pick up a young lady at an otherwise empty, backlit bar. Special, indeed.

It's an early thing, this daily wedding celebration of Shanghai's present and its future. The ruckus at the seafood buffet happens sometime between 6.30 and 6.40pm. By 8pm, it's a slowly spinning ghost town and sashimi scraps. Go early, and go for the sunset. The staff throws up some smokescreen about reserving early to get a window seat. Showing up with a ticket seemed to be enough to secure a whole window-side table this week. At 280rmb, it's not cheap, and that doesn't include the 20rmb Cokes and 30rmb Evian they try to sting you for once you're up there. Unless you can wring out a bit of juice from the octopus-and-sticky-rice stir-fry, or are happy with soup in place of a beverage, there's nothing to drink.



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  • einzweidrei

    I\'m european ... when it comes to food ... I rather go for a 5 kuai noodle dish round the corner (and an 6.8 kuai beer from Lawson) ... which sure is something to remember :-)

  • djsexypaul

    cant believe your complaining about a 20rmb coke Chris. in this town thats cheap. Wait until you have been living here for over 15 years and see if you complain then

  • cutie angel

    With those planty planty of MSG in the noodle....ahhh~~15 years is too long for him

  • cali

    oh paul, get over your age man, sure you were here when shanghai was in its greatest years, pre all the mediocrity that it is shanghai today, and i can respect you for not wanting to pay taxes in the U.S., but give the man his point of view, i mean you force yours on those tots!

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