Spicy Fish Budapest (沸腾鱼乡)

It’s always a good sign when a Chinese restaurant is buried deep within the city’s Chinatown, and Budapest is no exception. You will need to trek out to Monori Center, a 15-minute cab ride from downtown, to find Spicy Fish, one of the leading ambassadors of Chinese food in Budapest. Spicy Fish's menu is divided between spicy Sichuan and milder Zhejiang dishes. The reason for the seemingly random gastronomic combination of two distant provinces is actually logical: Zhejiang is where most of Budapest's Chinese community hails from, and spicy Sichuan food is simply very popular currently.

On most days it's a chic Chinese crowd inside the hangar-like space. Tables are brimming with shared plates - at the center of most of them there's some kind of whole fish like the grilled carp smothered in soy sauce. A popular Zhejiang dish that's prepared well at Spicy Fish is the Dongpo pork (€11), a thick cut of braised pork belly where the crispy skin hides a meat so soft it's about to fall apart.

Of the Sichuanese classics, both the Chongqing spicy chicken (laziji) and the Yuxiang shredded pork (fish-fragrant pork) were excellent, but the star of the show at Spicy Fish is the namesake spicy fish (shui zhu yu, €17) - shreds of carp filet swimming in a sea of chili oil and Sichuan peppercorns. Beware, portions are big so sharing is the way to go here. Although not a dedicated hot pot spot, you can also order a bowl of boiling broth with thin slices of beef or venison for the ultimate communal experience (€30). Just remember that the broth gets increasingly spicy as the ingrediens cook through.

Spicy Fish is not a cheap restaurant, but if you go with more people and share plates, my experience is that the bill will rarely exceed €30 or so per person including a couple of beers.