Shandong Chinese Restaurant (山东饭店)

One 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 modern(ish) warehouses far outside the city center? Dedicated Chinese food fans, is the answer of course. Even though Shandong Restaurant occupies a modest space and is located in a rundown section of the area, I urge you not to turn your back on it because similar to HeHe, it serves up some of the best and most wallet-friendly Chinese fare in Budapest. On any given evening, Chinese families fill Shandong to near capacity, always a good sign, while Chinese TV murmurs from several screens in the background.

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), a dish you will find in every Chinese restaurant but here the sauce has actual sour notes rather than just cloying sweetness, and the exterior is crispy, the inside soft. Groups of three or four should order the chicken dry pot (gan guo ji) that 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, and the mildly sour fish soup with clams and a slight refreshing punch from ginger and cucumbers. If you’d prefer to stick to something more familiar, the boiled pork dumplings are on point too.

I recommend Shandong to those who're looking for great Chinese food without a swanky interior or a scenic neighborhood.