Shandong Chinese Restaurant (山东饭店)

Yes, you could argue that Budapest’s Chinatown (Monori Center) isn’t the most inviting of places. After all, who gets excited about strip mall-like rows of boring warehouses that are far outside the city center? The answer is, of course, that fans of Chinese food do. Shandong Restaurant is located in a rundown section of the area, but I urge you not to turn your back on it. Similar to HeHe, this modest, unpretentious space serves up some of the best and most wallet-friendly Chinese fare in Budapest.

In the evenings, Chinese families tend to fill Shandong to capacity. Young children crawling around, teenagers glued to their phones, Mandarin chatter wafting from the TV - it feels like being in China. Although the owners are from Shandong province, the food reflects many parts of China. One of the standouts is the sweet and sour pork (tang cu li ji; €6), a dish you will find in every Chinese restaurant, but here the sauce imparts the perfect level of sour notes, while also being crispy and soft.

Groups of three or four should order the chicken dry pot (gan guo ji; €13) which cooks through in a creamy soy-based sauce at the electric stove placed on the table. I also enjoyed the sweet, sour, and spicy yuxiang eggplant (€5), and the mildly sour fish soup with clams (€5). If you’d prefer to stick to something more familiar, the boiled pork dumplings are on point too (€5).

Note that Shandong usually shuts down for February, during Chinese New Year.