Shandong Chinese Restaurant (山东饭店)

You may say that Budapest’s Chinatown (Monori Center) isn’t the most inviting of places, after all, who gets excited about decor-deprived restaurants amid rows of boring wholesale stores far outside the city center? (The answer: fans of Chinese food.) Shandong Restaurant is located on a particularly rundown section of the area, but I urge you not to turn your back on it. Similar to HeHe, this unpretentious space serves up some of the best and lowest-priced Chinese fare in Budapest.

Almost all tables at Shandong are occupied by Chinese families; there are lively conversations around the round tables while Mandarin chatter is wafting from the TV. Although the owners are from Shandong province, the food reflects many parts of China. One of the best items is the sweet and sour pork (tang cu li ji; €6), a dish you will find in every Chinese restaurant, but here the sauce hits the optimal sour notes, and the meat is 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 spicy yuxiang eggplant (€5), and the fish soup with clams (€5). If you’d prefer to stick to something more familiar, go for the boiled pork dumplings(€5).

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