Despite the fact that 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 dishes (communist Hungary accepted immigrants from Northern Vietnam), and even those plates are often 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 pho restaurants swarming all over Budapest. They serve a broader range of Vietnamese staples that may include 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 has been quietly transforming into a paradise of ethnic cuisine - adventurous locals can try Thai, Indian, Korean, and Vietnamese flavors near one another. Saigon Bistro, which looks like a takeout-joint, is one of the few Southern Vietnamese restaurants in Budapest (it was from the communist north that Hungary took immigrants during the Vietnam War). This means that the dishes here pack more herbs, garnishes, and sweeter flavors than elsewhere. .
Sometimes excellent restaurants turn up in the most unlikely places - Dang Muoi is situated along a noisy Buda road teeming with cars but not many pedestrians. Not exactly a restaurateur's dream location. So it's all the more promising that the place-against the odds-is usually packed with customers. Dang Muoi started out in the 1990s as a food stall on the now-demolished Asian street market on the other side of the Danube River.
Vietnami Speciális Melegkonyha is a bare-bones Vietnamese restaurants in Budapest, and one of the best of its kind in the city. It also serves many traditional dishes you won't find elsewhere in the city. The only downside is that it's a 15-minute cab ride from the city center, but at least you will get to discover the less-traveled parts of Budapest too. Having taken over the space from an Italian restaurant without redoing the interior, the wallpapers still sport Gothic-windows and a verdant Tuscan countryside, lending a bizarre decor to the dining room..
Leather banquettes, trilingual menus, and a prime Downtown location are not usually hallmarks of Vietnamese restaurants in Budapest. Not so with Quán Nón Restaurant. The spacious dining room isn’t so much tastefully decorated as more formal than the Vietnamese takeout places that otherwise monopolize the genre..
Hú Lù Lu, a Vietnamese restaurant in Budapest’s party district, is the type of place where the food speaks louder than the decor (always a better combination than reversed). Two Vietnamese-Hungarian 20-somethings originally from Nghệ An in north-central Vietnam run this 2018 newcomer and in addition to a few excellent dishes it's the adorably “mom and pop” feel of Hú Lù Lu’s that draws me back..
Oriental Soup House is a chic and affordable Vietnamese fusion restaurant in the cool-but-under-the-radar Újlipótváros neighborhood a bit outside the city center. I'm always happy when I see Asian cooks scurry behind the open kitchen in a Vietnamese restaurant and this place is no exception. The slim menu centers around 11 types of hearty soups of which the traditional beef pho (pho bo), flaunting a flavorful broth with a golden hue, is among the better representatives of the pho genre in Budapest, especially if you order it with raw loin that cooks in the hot broth. .
Hanoi Xua is a Vietnamese restaurant in Budapest that’s popular among local Hungarians. The place is best known for its extensive soup varieties, above-average fried rice plates, and a few Vietnamese foods that rarely appear in other restaurants like the chè dessert. Hanoi Xua is located in 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 international medical students who study at the nearby campuses of Semmelweis University. .
Hanoi Pho’s name is misleading because the bland pho soup they make is hardly the reason to visit this Vietnamese restaurant in Budapest’s Downtown near the Parliament building. (Like in other parts of the Western world, they use this iconic Vietnamese dish as a signifier for Vietnamese food in general.) .
Funky Pho is a closet-sized eatery hiding in a quiet side street just off Andrássy Avenue in District 6. The place makes some of the best pho soups in Budapest, and that’s saying a lot in a city flooded with restaurants specializing in pho. The small space, with only two tables and less than ten counter seats, goes for a chic Vietnamese street food look with pop art wall paintings, and conical hats hanging from the ceiling. .
Depending on your preferences, you might describe Sáo as the hottest restaurant in town or, alternatively, a pan-Asian eatery serving overpriced 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, paying the equivalent of €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..
Here’s the good news: I’ve tried almost all dishes at Good Morning Vietnam, a tiny Downtown restaurant, and without fail they were very good. The summer roll was light and fresh; the spring roll porky; the pho rich and flavorful with tender slices of cooked beef shank; the bun bo nam bo varied in its textures; the bun cha intensely smokey. None of them were the best I’ve had, but the food at Good Morning Vietnam is the most consistently reliable across the whole menu..
Budapest’s District 7 is 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) opened Bánh Mì in 2018, after realizing locals’ fondness of Vietnamese food. But instead of yet another pho-centered eatery that Budapest already bristles with, they decided to go for a bánh mì food stall, specializing in the iconic French-Vietnamese sandwiches, the first such place in Budapest. .
Hai Nam Pho Bistro is what happens when ethnic cuisine becomes a victim of excessive "localization." The Vietnamese owners here believe that Vietnamese food must be adjusted to local Hungarian tastes - a reasonable theory that may lead to inventive dishes, but at Hai Nam it simply means they eschew flavorful cuts of meats and avoid traditional Vietnamese dishes they don't deem palatable to Hungarians. .
In 2015, three young Vietnamese-Hungarians with a passion for cooking and a background in fashion and design opened an Asian-fusion restaurant, Sáo, in the tourist-packed Jewish Quarter of Budapest. Sáo turned out to be a success story. Encouraged, the owners opened another restaurant, KHAN, this time in the residential Újlipótváros neighborhood a bit outside the city center. Here too a chic, Instagram-friendly interior awaits customers complete with sleek wood finishes, concrete columns, contemporary art, and Asian collectibles..