Shandong Chinese Restaurant (山东饭店)

Budapest’s Chinatown (Monori Center) isn’t the most inviting of places, after all, who gets excited about decor-deprived restaurants amid rows of 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.

Inside, Chinese families sit around round tables while Mandarin chatter wafts 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-tastingand the meat is crispy and soft.

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 interspersed with vegetables. Use the the electric stove placed on your table to cook it through in the creamy soy-based sauce (give it a good 10 minutes). 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 for the Chinese New Year in February.