I must admit that we didn't have very high expectations of PasarBella, the new gourmet market that opened at the Grandstand amidst much hype. I perhaps unfairly assumed that it would simply be a poor copy of overseas farmers' markets, and that it would house the usual generic suspects like Da Paolo and Hubers. However, it turns out that even established vendors had to ensure that they had a distinctive angle, that would set their PasarBella outlet apart from their other branches.
PasarBella definitely channels New York's Chelsea Market, to some extent. You can't really expect the same farm-to-table concept here, simply because of geography, but there's a similar vibe and the tenant mix is quite promising.
It's very much a day-time place though. We were there at about 7 pm for dinner and all but a few stalls were already winding down. I could only gaze longingly at the huge paella pan that the folks at Le Patio were already washing up by then.
We ended up at Oceans of Seafood, a pretty sprawling seafood market that contains a few restaurants - Japanese, an oyster bar, a Western restaurant where you can order crabs, lobsters and some bisque and pasta, and a seafood market for raw fish and shellfish.
We weren't really sure where/what to eat, so we just went to the Japanese section and ordered a chirashi sushi each, and A's friend had some nigiri sushi. After waiting half an hour, and seeing plate after plate of fried sardines, boiled spot prawns, steamed lobster, sashimi and sushi being served to the family next to us, I lost my patience and asked them to check on our order. They came back and said it was currently being prepared. After pressing them about why it took so long, they finally said that the ticket had been overlooked. "So basically, you forgot?", I asked. "Yes", they finally admitted.
The chirashi was nothing great, and certainly not worth the wait and the service/attitude. Granted, we're not big spenders like the aforementioned family, who I reckon chalked up a $1,000 bill, but we're still paying customers and I expect to be treated no worse than they were.
Turns out that even though you're at the Japanese section, you can select fresh fish from the market and have them prepare it how you like (I saw some deep fried sardines that looked really good), and you can even order from the Western section. If we ever do come back to Oceans of Seafood after recce-ing the other stalls,we'll probably do that instead, because I was completely not impressed with the Japanese side.
So, thumbs up for PasarBella, but thumbs down for Oceans of Seafood. For now.
I fully expected PasarBella to suck. Thankfully, it doesn't. While it's nowhere near the standard of places like Borough or Chelsea, it's definitely a good attempt.
With regards to Oceans of Seafood, it's probably a good place if you want to drop loads of money on the fancy dishes. Other than that, it's totally not worth going.