Day Trip to the Tigre

2014.Mar.04 Tuesday · 1 comment

in Life, Restaurants

After yesterday’s post I needed a break all over again, but luckily, I had one planned for after the dinners. Being a holiday weekend and having had all the extra private parties, we’d decided to take a four-day break and have a Saturday through Tuesday off. Henry wanted to have a party for a group of his friends, one of those all night affairs, so it seemed a perfect chance for me to take a short get-away. I’ve been wanting to go to Isla Martin Garcia, upriver from Tigre, for awhile, but the logistics are a bit of a pain, since the boat leaves at 9 in the morning from Tigre, and you have to board by about 8:30/8:40 – since getting to Tigre takes well over an hour from home, it makes for an early morning. But, I’ve also been wanting to check out some of the island based restaurants in the delta, so why not make a two-day jaunt of it and stay the night before the Isla trip?

Tigre - my view

Checking out hotels didn’t yield much of any interest, being a holiday weekend everything was pretty solidly booked, and prices seemed really pretty high – I don’t know if hotels jacked the prices up knowing there would be demand, or if Tigre’s just pretty expensive to stay in to begin with. But a trip to AirBnB yielded a couple of promising spots, one of which turned out to be owned by an acquaintance of a friend of mine, and she got back to me in short order, we arranged a night’s stay, and all was set. It was a lovely house along the river, and it happened I was the only one renting a room, so the whole house was mine for the day/night. I picked the nicest bedroom, facing over the river, dropped off my stuff, and headed out.

Tigre - estacion fluvial

First stop was to head to the offices of Cacciola, the launch company that goes to Isla Martin Garcia, to pick up and pay for my tickets. The woman printed them out, and then the conversation sort of went: “So here’s your ticket for tomorrow morning heading to the island, and here’s your ticket for the return in the evening. Oh wait, no, it’s for April 2nd, not March 2nd, really, you’re staying a month?” “No, just a day trip.” “Oh, the return date is wrong, someone put a 4 instead of a 3 for the month, no problem, I’ll just change that.” … “Hmmm, there are no spaces on the return boat because of people who are already staying over on the island coming back, I can get you back on Tuesday if you don’t mind staying two nights on the island.” “No, really, I just want a day trip, is there anything you can do?” “No, sorry, when there’s no space there’s no space. What would you like to do?” “Cancel it I guess.” “Sorry.”

Disappointment, especially since this was the whole raison d’etre for the weekend trip, but hey, I’ll make the best of it – send out a couple of emails to friends for suggestions for other interesting things to do that might be day trip sort of things. Post a couple of twitter and facebook messages looking for suggestions of interesting restaurants. Loop around the canal and pick up my ticket for the launch to Gato Blanco, one of the restaurants I already knew I wanted to try, and get in line for the water taxi.

Tiger - water taxi

In short order I’m on the inter-island launch and we’re speeding around the river and tributaries. These things don’t just go to one spot, they stop at anywhere someone needs to be dropped off or picked up – more like a circulating water bus of the hop on hop off variety than a taxi. The launch runs 90 pesos – 27 of which is a coupon to cover your cubierto charge at the restaurant… back to that in a moment.

Tigre - water taxi ride
Tigre - water taxi ride

I’ve had other posts that covered various parts of Tigre – here, here, here, here, here and here – and I could have sworn I had a video of one of the boat rides, but can’t find it. So let’s just leave it for the moment that it’s a reasonably pleasant ride, especially when it’s a beautiful day.

Gato Blanco

In about an hour, which varies depending on how many stops the launch has to make enroute, we arrived at Gato Blanco. Lovely setting. Greeted by Marcelo, the maitre d’, who gave me a great table right on the riverside. Service is a trifle slow, not excessively, but things do take a bit of time. On the other hand, it’s really a downtime sort of place, even when you’re done you’re going to have to wait for the next water taxi to come by, which run roughly every 30-45 minutes apart, depending on day of week and time of day.

Provoleta Gato Blanco

I have to admit, I didn’t do a huge amount of restaurant research, I’ve just heard about this place repeatedly over the years. Somehow or other I had it in my mind that its specialty was fish, river fish in particular. No idea why, but it’s what was in my mind. It’s not. It’s a parrilla, a steakhouse. In fact there are only a couple of fish dishes on the menu, and none of them local fish, it’s trout from Bariloche or sole from Patagonia. But I can adjust (a lot of adjusting this last week). Started off with a favorite appetizer, provoleta, but went for the “Gato Blanco” style, which turned out to be topped with a delicious tomato sauce, thin slivers of ham and a roasted bell pepper. Nice start.

Gato Blanco - matambrito

Okay, the last time I saw a presentation like this was early 80s at a hotel banquet. This is an anachronistic dish if ever there was one. Matambrito, or pork flank, tender as could be, smothered in a warm lemon and champagne jelly and served with noisette potatoes. I have to admit, it was damned good, but at the same time I could wait another thirty years until trying one again.

Gato Blanco - panqueque

And may as well go for food coma with the house specialty, a crepe topped with chocolate sauce, sliced bananas and strawberries, walnuts and whipped cream. Another real retro style dish. I didn’t leave any of it on the plate. This all doesn’t come cheap. Lunch ran 616 pesos plus tip, including a bottle of water, a half bottle of wine, and a coffee. When the bill came, they hadn’t taken off the discount, despite my having handed them the coupon from the launch. The waiter “didn’t remember” me giving him the coupon, but rather than just giving me the benefit of the doubt (I mean, almost everyone eating there comes by launch and has the coupon, very few come by private boat), he just shrugged and walked away. So, 27 pesos came off of his tip – I figured he’d “find” the coupon later and get the tip anyway when the bill was processed – I probably should have taken off more just for the attitude, but I was relaxing, you know?

Gato Blanco - park

After lunch a bit of a wander in the restaurant’s “park”, really quite beautiful. Then back to the dock and grab the next launch back to town.

Sarmiento museum

I don’t recall seeing this before on past trips, though I may have – the Sarmiento house and museum. I ticked that off as a possible visit for next day, figured I’d do a little online research to see if it was worth a visit. Back to the house, relaxed and read for a couple of hours.

Tigre - murga
Tigre - murga
Tigre - murga
Tigre - murga
Tigre - murga

Then grabbed a taxi to go to the evening’s murga, a street festival for Carnavale that was being held out at the far edge of town. Rhythm and dancing. Spent about an hour. We were monitored by some sort of hovering drone throughout – I don’t know if it was being run by the police as an actual monitor of the event – there were probably around hundred police officers around the area keeping an eye on things – or perhaps one of the news crews? It was a little weird as it hovered and moved around. No one else seemed to pay it much mind, so I gather it’s something they’re used to.

Tigre - Optimus
Tigre - Optimus
Tigre - Optimus

Called the same taxi to come back and pick me up and take me back into the center of town. As of this point no one had gotten back to me with any restaurant suggestions, so I decided to wing it, I’d read some good things about Optimus, the newest restaurant in the Trilenium Casino – touted to be some of the more creative food in town. The room is pretty, and spacious, in some ways too spacious, I estimate that the tables are somewhere between three and four meters apart, regardless of where you sit, you’re more or less dining alone. A restaurant that has about forty seats but could easily have 80 or more in the space and still feel comfortable. That also means that the waitstaff have a long way to walk to do anything, and it shows to some extent in their demeanor. They’re friendly, but they’re tired. Three waiters and a floor manager (who never left standing by the door watching), for five people in the restaurant, and still somehow about half the time none of the waiters were in the room. There are also various casino staff who wander in and out, with their walkie-talkies blaring, a bit of a jarring note in an otherwise tranquil room.

Decent veal carpaccio with shards of a local cheese, a lightly pickled eggplant puree and various garnishes. Boded well for the following course. However, the main fell short slightly. In a place like this I think I’d go with housemade pastas rather than boxed pastas – the menu did make it clear it wasn’t homemade, but they could certainly up the quality with some fresh pasta. It was also very undercooked. There’s al dente and then there’s simply hard and chewy. No one ever came to check. I picked out the mixed seafood, which was abundant and a nice selection including scallops, crab, prawns, mussels, and octopus, but all of the seafood was the opposite end of the spectrum, overcooked and rubbery. The only decent point of the dish was the sauce, a rich, creamy concoction made from the coral of the prawns and scallops. I left most of the dish, when someone finally showed up to clear it, they just took it away without asking. So, overall, service was pretty lacking, and the food was conceptually good, but not executed as well as it ought to have been. Had the quality been a bit better it would have been reasonably priced at 289 pesos plus tip for the two dishes, a bottle of water and a half bottle of wine, as it stands, it just wasn’t a decent value.

Took a cab back to the house planning on a little reading time and then a nice night’s sleep before figuring out what to do next. Stopped into the kitchen only to flip on the light and discover a veritable sea of large cockroaches on every surface in the place. I flipped the light off, went upstairs, packed my stuff into my backpack and called the cab back – headed to the station, grabbed a bus, and was home at 2 in the morning – having pre-warned Henry, but also told him to go ahead and continue his party – they did for awhile and then headed out dancing. Had I still had plans for the Isla I’d have probably looked for a hotel room, but since I didn’t, may as well sleep at home. Spent Sunday bike riding.

More photos from the day in Tigre here on my Flickr page.

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