Unsurprisingly for a port city, Xiamen is known for its fresh fish, and seafood can be found for next to nothing in the back streets of the old quarter or at small, hole-in-the-wall restaurants just up from the dock on Gulang Yu. Lunch will still be swimming or crawling in plastic tubs set out in the street, and is priced by weight. A waterfront Pizza Hut on the 24th floor of a tower in Lujiang Dao, visible for miles, has correspondingly excellent views once you get up there.
Popular with university students in the Siming part of town, M-3 (Li Fang Mi Shi Shang Canting, Xia Da Xi Cun Ding, Wo Zai Lu 14-18; tel. 0592/899-1820), offers an eclectic range of New York-Tokyo fusion food. Sushi fans will love the creativity that these guys put into their dishes. Highlights include golden dragon roll (salmon roll with cheese; san wen zi shi juan) and green dragon roll (eel, cucumber, and avocado; man yu za xia juan). Do not forget to finish with a fried ice cream (zha xue gao).
Relax cafe, Daxue Lu 213 (opposite Xiamen University Medical School; tel. 0592/219-1687) with its spacious two-floor interior is popular with local and expat students alike who come here with their laptops to take advantage of the free wireless -- everyone else is glued to QQ, Facebook, or Youku. There is an extensive Western menu and while items such as the Waldorf and duck breast salad look tempting, my advice is to choose something simpler to avoid any disappointment. The power-sets of three choices of juice and three choices of spaghetti at just ¥29 are especially good values. If you are suffering from the local street food then a pot of sour prune tea at ¥40 may be just what the doctor ordered.
Huang ze he, or peanut soup, from the Huasheng Tang Dian (peanut snack bar) on Zhongshan Lu, is the local dish that most tourists seek out, but you will have to battle through crowds of red and white baseball caps to get any. A more relaxing option is to look out for a city wide brand Miao Xian Bian Shi which turns out equally delicious peanut-based dishes. My favorite was the local-style wonton soup (bian shi) and the tasty noodles (ban mian).
The owners of The House, Baihe Lu 10-1 (tel. 0592/204-4368), have renovated an original 1920s French-style building and now have a stylish restaurant and bar serving Californian cuisine. Courtyard tables, fine wines, fresh pastas, and some of the best steak in town, as well as chill-out music to go with a chilled-out atmosphere.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.