P.C. Lee California Beef Noodle King in Xi’an, China

This is really funny and I’m having quite a bit of fun just writing about this.

So a friend and I decided to visit the Terracotta Warriors (that’s probably why I visited city!) and when we got to the Xi’an Train Station, we needed to fill up before we head off on the 40-minute bus ride. There was a McDonald’s and a KFC and it would’ve been a “safe” bet … but I didn’t travel all the way here just to have McDies and fried chicken.

P.C. Lee California Beef Noodle King in Xi'an, China

P.C. Lee California Beef Noodle King in Xi'an, China

What caught my eyes was this fastfood restaurant called “P.C. Lee California Beef Noodle King” and the restaurant trumped McDonald’s with the best location: Ground Floor. What held me back was:

  1. There are a lot of Mr. Lee’s in California, but I’m pretty sure this Mr. Lee isn’t
  2. California is known for a lot of things, but definitely not beef noodles! Not the last time I checked …

Subconsciously though, I knew I had to try Mr. Lee’s joint because:

  1. I really wasn’t going to settle for McDies or KFC, not here in Xi’an
  2. According to Wikipedia, 8% of China (104 million people) has that surname, and globally, 108 million. Arguably, that is the single most popular surname in the world and this Mr. Lee had the audacity to beat 54 million other Mr. Lee’s to it. “Nah-huh. I’m Mr. Lee”, he says … “You’re not”. He either is really full of himself of his food is actually not bad. And I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.
  3. People are going in and out of the restaurant in droves
  4. Mr. Lee claims to have over 380 restaurants in China … he’s gotta be doing something right.
  5. I was really hungry
Menu at P.C. Lee California Beef Noodle King in Xi'an, China

Menu at P.C. Lee California Beef Noodle King in Xi'an, China

And for RMB 36, you’ll get this (please see below) …

My RMB 36 (!) Meal at P.C. Lee California Beef Noodle King in Xi'an, China

My RMB 36 (!) Meal at P.C. Lee California Beef Noodle King in Xi'an, China

… A fairly big bowl of beef noodle (from “California”), a side dish which includes beef tripe and braised beef shrank (牛展) a Fanta and a bottle of water (the water wasn’t part of the meal, but I needed it for the bus ride).

The verdict? It was no Kau Kee, but it was pretty decent. Mind you, RMB 31 (RMB 36 minus RMB 5 for the water) is considered expensive in a city where you can get a bowl of very good noodle for RMB 10 at a local restaurants … the herb / spice in the soup was a little overpowering and there wasn’t a lot of beef taste in the soup. The actual beef cubes helped a lot though, as did the sides dish of tripe and shrank, which was really good. The tripe was drenched in hot sauce, but it wasn’t that spicy and the shrank, well it was a little dry … but just throw them into the soup and it’s not bad.

You might’ve noticed I lowered my expectation significantly here in Xi’an … I did. I think everything is relative and you just have to put everything in perspective, otherwise I’d be very miserable.

He's not just any Mr. Lee ... He's THE Mr. Lee

He's not just any Mr. Lee ... He's THE Mr. Lee

Not since Yonghe Dawang (永和大王) have I seen any fastfood chain copy Colonel Sanders’ face-as-logo branding … not until I came across Mr. Lee!

Staff Asking for Customer Review

Staff Asking for Customer Review

Here, a staff was asking a patron to fill a customer review form … hmm, maybe that’s why they’re doing so well?

Mr. Lee vs. Ronald McDonald's in Xi'an!

Mr. Lee vs. Ronald McDonald's in Xi'an!

This picture can go into a TIME or an ECONOMIST with the title “Local Fastfood Chain Making a Comeback at Foreign Competitors” … or something along those lines … see you’ve got Mr. Lee and McD’s logo and you’ve got Xi’an City’s Northern Gate in the background … how “artistic”.

And last, but definitely not least (I saved this for last) … literally, on the opposite of P.C. Lee’s restaurant … there’s a “California Beef Noodle Restaurant U.S.A.” … how crazy is that right? And that restaurant got the better of KFC too, which is situated right above! Can you believe this? I understand Chinese copying Western businesses, but man, when you’ve got Chinese copying Chinese, this is a completely new playing field. A new era of patent, copyright and trademark infringement 🙂 I’d like to see how that pans out … although I don’t think Mr. Lee, with 380+ restaurants really cares at the moment. He’s living the American Chinese dream.

California Beef Noodle King U.S.A.!

California Beef Noodle King U.S.A.!

… Mr. Lee … what a joke.

P.C. Lee California Beef Noodle King
Xi’an Train Station, Xi’an
Shaanxi, China

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