This weekend, we visited the new Rays Capitol Grille, located on the top of one of Vientiane's tallest buildings.
Most people in town will already know of Rays Grille downtown, home to colossal burgers and tasty steak sandwiches. (I'm not sure why 'Grille' is spelt with an 'e' instead of just 'Grill' but now's not the time to be the spelling police).
Now Rays has a new venue open just for breakfast, 7 days a week and specialising in American-style food in the same hefty proportions for which Rays is known.
So, on Sunday we headed there for a family brunch.
The first test of any outing in Vientiane is finding the place. I knew Rays Capitol was on the same street as the original Rays restaurant but we lapped the block twice before concurring that it must be in this building...
There's no signage outside the building, so you just have to be in the know, or a good guesser. There's also no public parking in the hotel so find a spot on the street.
Inside the hotel there was a sign by the elevator confirming that we were in the right place but that the restaurant was open from 6.30-10.30am. It was just after 11am so we decided to chance it and head upstairs anyway to check out the view.
It was lucky that we did. On weekends, Rays Capitol is open until 1.30pm (last orders by 12.45pm). Phew. And it was great to see a very different view of Vientiane, particularly on an unusually cool and cloudy day with the rain clouds rolling in.
The restaurant was half full though more tables filled while we were there. We grabbed a balcony table, though essentially the restaurant is one big balcony with great views from three sides. A silent TV mounted to the wall above us was playing a soccer match, and the heavy wooden and cast iron furniture seemed designed for lazy brunches. A middle table lit up cigarettes and the smoke drifted strongly around the room. A smoking section would be hard to enforce here but would also be appreciated by non-smokers.
We ordered from the good sized menu, complete with lots of extras like mushrooms and hash browns - pancakes for the kids, omelettes for the adults, coffee and juices.
They'd already run out of a few juices but ours - pineapple and apple - arrived quickly. Unfortunately neither tasted particularly fresh, or perhaps they were strained before serving, and they were very sweet. The cappucino never arrived and when we enquired about half an hour later, we were told that they didn't have a barista on hand so maybe to forget the coffee.
The food took a while and came out at different times; az's omelette with avocado, tomato and cheese, sausage and a rosti-style, freshly made hashbrown arrived first after about half an hour.
About 10 minutes afterwards, my spinach and smoked salmon frittata appeared. We both fed most of our meals to the kids who were ravenous by that point.
It was then another 20 minutes before the kids' pancakes arrived (though the accompanying sausages never did and we didn't bother following up). It was easy to see that the manager was getting stressed by the continuing flow of orders and his under-staffed kitchen but everyone was always smiling and cheerful. And we've been to enough new restaurants to know these are just teething problems that will right themselves in a month or two.
Finally, the pancakes arrived, thick and hot, laden in fresh mango and drizzled with homemade coconut sauce.
They were soon polished off and we left shortly after. I'd definitely return, though perhaps with a book instead of hungry kids. It was a great place to hang out with friends and see Vientiane from another perspective.
Rays Capitol Grille is on the 10th floor of the Capitol Residence, on the same street as Rays Grille, downtown. It's open from 6.30-10.30 Mon-Fri and 6.30am-1.30pm Sat and Sun.