It was a humid Saturday evening, and I was dressed in a (pretty spiffy IMO) Uniqlo shirt and pants combo, noshing on a slice of rye bread with a side of olives — an appetiser. Sitting next to me was a dude clad in the finest chainmail, rambunctious and laughing into a fork full of hummus as a professional belly dancer gyrated enticingly behind us. Behind her was the Iron Throne, forged from a thousand swords surrendered to Aegon the Conqueror, vacant and up for the taking.
I was at a Game Of Thrones-themed dinner party, helmed by the folks of Geek Crusade.
The invitation was righteously solemn: “Here we feast in memory of Oberyn of House Martell, Prince of Dorne and father to the Sand Snakes. For Oberyn Martell (RIP bro) was brutally slain by Ser Gregor Clegane in service as Tyrion Lannister’s champion in a trial by combat; beautifully depicted in gory glory in season four of the massively popular HBO production, where the Red Viper of Dorne literally gets his teeth knocked out and his skull crushed manually by hand. Shocking, but like the people of Essos say, valar morghulis.”
The requiem for the Red Viper, however, was no simple affair where folks simply serve an existing menu, chuck a fancy Dothraki name on it and call it a day.
No ser, the menu that night at Restaurant SELA off Seah Street was painstakingly created from scratch by the chef, inspired either by specific lines from George R.R. Martin’s A Song Of Ice and Fire series, or from the tumultuous history of House Martell. Sure they could have gone the easy route and lifted recipes off The Official Game Of Thrones Companion Cookbook (yes it exists), but where’s the fun in that?
With larger-than-life dishes such as Dragon Eggs Hatching (potato salad with avruga, salmon roe and hard boiled quail eggs) and The Wrath of the Sand Snakes (flat iron steak with beet jus), you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’ll cost you a fair bit of gold (and it did, at $95 per person for just dinner). But in the end, the iron price of admission was well worth it.
The experience began at the entrance, with robed Geek Crusade chief (and Head Geek) Nicholas Yong greeting me at the door and directing me to my table. The restaurant was already filled with an assortment of characters — some dressed as Thrones, some in Westeros-inspired outfits, and some wearing boring normal-ass clothes (like me). Each table of six bore the names and pictures of Game Of Thrones characters; mine was Robb Stark. I whisper a little prayer to the Old Gods of the Forest and shudder at the memory of the Red Wedding before taking my seat.
And before you ask, no, the people who attended the dinner weren’t neckbeards or High Valyrian-only-speaking weirdos — at least not the folks sitting at my table. Turns out I was the only noob at the table, for the rest actually knew each other before from the previous Geek Crusades theme dinner parties, like the Hunger Games in November and the first-ever Thrones-inspired even in April last year. From what I gathered, those events had been soirees featuring geek culture and legitimate fine cuisine. So far so goodm I thought, as we bantered about the latest Thrones episodes and the perils of incestuous regal relationships.
The Bastards of Dorne (the dish, not real orphans) arrived at our tables just as night gathered; a scrumptious appetiser in the form of rye bread with a side of hummus and olives. It was at this point in time that Jaime and Cersei Lannister jaunted gaily into the restaurant in full costume and plopped themselves onto the empty seats at our table. Upon seeing Stark’s picture, Jaime withdrew his plastic sword and smacked down the image, laughing in Lannister-like mirth. Sergio and his wife — Spanish expats who attended the first Thrones dinner last year — had returned to King’s Landing alright.
As we said our hellos and munched on hummus (you can never ever go wrong with hummus), Yong appeared in front of the Iron Throne to kick off the event proper, making jokes and references only Thrones fans would get. He introduced the belly dancer, who swayed and spun (to presumably Dornish music) as we sat awkwardly eating bread and watched her perform. There were these quizzes on our tables, which tested our knowledge on all things Thrones, and we yelled our answers to the quiz master. Some Googling was done, of course, for the obscure bits.
Then the mains arrived and they were fucking glorious. Communal feasts don’t come any more royal than this one.
The communal feast (because Oberyn did everything communally, ‘nah mean) kicked off proper with Dragon Eggs Hatching, a solid spread of creamy potato salad cooked with pommery mustard and honey and garnished with top-notch salmon roe, quail eggs and avruga. Hungry as Bobby Baratheon, the board was cleared within minutes, as Jaime and Cersei revealed that outside their Thrones fandom, they were tech executives — Sergio works at Google, while his wife has her own startup.
Next on the menu was Murder Most Fowl, a hearty array of oven-baked duck breast lathered in smoked paprika, lemon sauce, cherry tomatoes and lettuce. The Head Geek came out to the floor again and kicked off another quiz, with grand prizes like companion tomes to the Game Of Thrones TV series.
The feast continued with even more meats, including a tray of braised chicken breast cooked two ways (fried and grilled) called Dornish Love – Two Ways in homage to Oberyn’s impartiality to gender when it comes to sexual conquests. It was pretty meh, but chicken is chicken.
Then came this rectangular piece of meat, which we assumed to be our flatiron steak with beet jus, because, y’know, it’s called flatiron. But nay, this was a mistaken delivery — this was actually grilled fish for a customer who couldn’t eat beef. Pretty thoughtful of them.
Our Wrath of The Sand Snakes arrived proper and it was just as bloody as we imagined them to be. Perfectly cooked to medium rare, juicy sweet with beets and succulent to the bite, this was probably the dish that sealed the damned deal. Game Of Thrones references aside, this was a bona fide experience in fine cuisine, and a pretty damn fun one, too.
With the end of the main course, folks milled around hazily taking pictures with the props, with Yong and Hand to the Geek (also wife) Gillian going around tables making sure that everyone was having a grand time. Various characters took the Iron Throne, too, as the kitchen got ready the desserts.
By the time dessert came in the form of Sweet, Cold Revenge with baked apples, raspberries and whipped cream, folks were already pretty full, despite everything being communal and all. Turns out it was the birthday of Sergio as well, and Geek Crusade had prepared a customised Dothraki celebratory message, recorded by linguist David J. Peterson — the man who developed the language for the TV series.
To conclude the commemoration of Oberyn Martell’s life and death, Yong led the whole restaurant in a gallant pledge to “kill my enemy completely, before I start my triumphant monologue.”
And thus concluded the feast fit to feed The Mountain himself. The knights and squires of House Geek Crusade truly surpassed all expectations with their lavish six-course meal. And with the latest season of Thrones coming to a close soon, Dinner Is Coming is sure to keep the song of ice and fire burning strong for fans and all the beloved characters who’ve expired under George R.R. Martin’s withered boots. Valar morghulis indeed.