Although Budapest has a sizeable Vietnamese community, the city isn’t overflowing with insanely good Vietnamese restaurants. For historical reasons, most places serve exclusively northern-Vietnamese fare—communist Hungary accepted immigrants from north—and even those dishes are limited in range and diluted in flavor to meet what the owners believe Hungarian diners can handle. The places below, however, stand out of the sea of Budapest's pho restaurants, also serving staples like com dia (over-rice dishes), banh cuon (steamed rice rolls), bun cha (grilled pork and noodle), canh chua (sour soups), ca kho to (caramelized fish), and banh xèo (sizzling pancake).
Budapest’s sleepy Szondi Street in District 6, lined with Thai, Indian, Korean, and Vietnamese restaurants near one another, is a paradise of ethnic cuisine. One of them, Saigon Bistro, a humble, takeout-looking spot, is one of the few Southern Vietnamese places in Budapest (Hungary took immigrants from the communist north during the Vietnam War), meaning that the dishes pack more herbs, garnishes, and sweeter flavors than elsewhere. .
Excellent restaurants often turn up in the most unlikely places. Dang Muoi is situated on a noisy, car-saturated road in Buda with little foot traffic—not exactly a restaurateur's dream location. But against the odds, the place is usually mobbed by diners. In the 1990s, Dang Muoi started as a food stall in a now-demolished Asian street market on the other side of the Danube, and has since expanded into three locations across Budapest, having found the way to Hungarians' hearts and stomachs.
Oriental Soup House is a bustling Vietnamese restaurant in Újlipótváros, a residential neighborhood a bit outside the city center. As soon as you enter, you will note the Asian cooks scurrying behind the open kitchen, always a good sign for a Vietnamese restaurant. The slim menu features 11 types of soups, of which the traditional beef pho (pho bo; €6), with a shimmering, flavorful broth and golden hue, is among the best I've had in Budapest, especially if you get it with thinly sliced tenderloins that quickly cook through in the steaming broth. .
Hú Lù Lu, a modest-looking Vietnamese restaurant in Budapest’s party district, is the type of place where the food speaks louder than the decor (always the better combination). Two Vietnamese-Hungarian twentysomethings originally from Nghệ An, in north-central Vietnam, set out to serve up dishes from their home region alongside Vietnamese classics..
Hanoi Xua is a Vietnamese restaurant in Budapest best known for its extensive soup varieties, above-average fried rice plates, and some Vietnamese dishes that rarely appear in other restaurants like the chè dessert. It occupies the ground floor of a residential apartment building in the outer part of District 9, once a seedy neighborhood, but now rapidly transforming thanks to moneyed international medical students at the nearby Semmelweis University. .
Hanoi Pho’s moniker is misleading as their unremarkable pho soup is hardly the reason to visit this Vietnamese restaurant in the heart of Budapest’s downtown, near the Parliament building. With a chef duo representing both ends of Vietnam (one is from Hanoi, the other Saigon), their claim to fame is the under-the-radar Vietnamese dishes rarely found elsewhere in Budapest. For example, it's only in Hanoi Pho where they make banh xèo (€7), a sizzling savory pancake of rice flour, coconut milk, and turmeric, folded and stuffed with shrimp, lettuce, and bean sprouts. Don’t miss it.
Vietnami Speciális Melegkonyha, a bare-bones Vietnamese restaurant outside the city center, serves some traditional dishes you won't find elsewhere. Location is the only downside: it takes about 20-minutes by car to get to from downtown, but at least you will get to discover the less-traveled parts of Budapest. They took over the space from an Italian restaurant without redoing the interior, resulting in a surreal decor featuring Gothic-windows and a Tuscan countryside..
Funky Pho is a teeny-tiny soup shop hiding in a quiet side street off Andrássy Avenue in District 6. The place makes some of the best pho soups in Budapest, which is saying a lot in a city flooded with pho joints. The small space, which has only two tables and less than 10 counter seats, goes for a chic street-food look featuring pop art wall paintings and conical hats as design pieces..
Depending on your preferences, you might describe Sáo as the hottest restaurant in town or, alternatively, as an overpriced pan-Asian eatery serving takeout food with little to show for its hype. Whichever side you're on, the fact is that Sáo operates at capacity every night of the week. Sure, €9 for a simple plate of fried rice with a few morsels of beef is excessive by Budapest standards, but there’s more to Sáo than food..
Budapest’s District 7 may be known as the city’s party district, but its burgeoning and increasingly diverse food scene may give that title a run for its money. A young Vietnamese couple—one of them first, the other a second generation Vietnamese-Hungarian—set up shop in 2018, after seeing locals' fondness of Vietnamese food. But instead of yet another pho soup shop, they launched a bánh mì joint, specializing in the iconic French-Vietnamese sandwiches, the first of its kind in Budapest. .
Hai Nam Pho Bistro is what happens when ethnic cuisine becomes a victim of too much "localization." The Vietnamese owners here believe that the food must be adjusted to local tastes, a perfectly reasonable theory that may spawn inventive dishes, but at Hai Nam they simply avoid flavorful cuts of fatty meats and traditional Vietnamese dishes that they don't deem palatable to Hungarians. For example, the bun cha (€6), normally a mound of flavorful pork belly, is a forlorn-looking affair of lean meat; the spring roll (€2), another Vietnamese staple, lacks the coveted porky flavor and crunchy crust. .
In 2015, three young Vietnamese-Hungarians with a passion for cooking and a background in fashion and design launched a trendy Asian-fusion restaurant, Sáo, in the tourist-packed Jewish Quarter of Budapest. Encouraged by Sáo's success, they opened KHAN, another chic, Instragram-friendly venue, situated in the residential Újlipótváros neighborhood, a bit outside the city center. .