Budapest’s Chinatown (Monori Center) isn’t the most fashionable of places; after all, who gets excited about decor-deprived rows of warehouses far outside the city center? The obvious 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.
Inside, Chinese families sit around round tables while Mandarin chatter drifts 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 all the right notes—it's not cloyingly sweet but perfectly bright-tasting—and the meat is tender and crispy.
Groups of three or four should order the bone-in chicken dry pot (gan guo ji; €16), an entire bird chopped into small pieces and served with vegetables. Use the the electric griddle placed before you to cook it through in the creamy, soy-based sauce (give it a good ten minutes). I also enjoyed the spicy yuxiang eggplant (€5), and the fish soup with clams (€5). If you’d prefer something more familiar, the homemade boiled dumplings (€5) will not disappoint.
Note that Shandong usually shuts down for the month of February during the Chinese New Year.