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Innovative Queens Noodle Shop Debuts With Handmade Udon and Oshi Sushi

Sen Udon serves handmade noodles inspired by Korean, Japanese, and Italian cooking styles

The front of a restaurant, whose black awning reads “East Meets West.” Off-screen to the left, chairs and part of an outdoor seating area are visible.
Sen Udon opened in the former space of Shabulixius, which closed at the end of August due to the coronavirus pandemic
Caroline Shin/Eater

Bayside’s competitive corridor of restaurants down Bell Boulevard — one that hosts Taverna Kyclades, Mad for Chicken, and a birria taco spot — has a newcomer to the scene. Just two months after Shabulixius closed up shop, Sen Udon has taken over the space at 39-32 Bell Boulevard with a focus on fresh udon noodles with Japanese, Korean, and Italian influences from the accompanying sauces and broths, as well as appetizers like oshi sushi.

“We’re not a typical ramen shop with just spicy miso or shoyu bases,” says owner Mike Chen, who grew up helping out at his father’s restaurant, Fortune Gourmet, in Flushing. A long-time fan of the thick, chewy udon noodle, Chen tapped Shuichi Kotani — the noodle master behind Manhattan spots Jin Ramen, Soba Totto, and Daruma-ya — to helm Sen Udon’s menu as a restaurant consultant and noodle supplier. Kotani makes whole wheat and spinach noodles for the 12 udon noodle dishes on the menu, which remain a work in progress during the restaurant’s recent soft-opening in mid-November.

“Kotani wanted to do a menu based on a twist of everything,” explains Chen.

For people who are “not entirely into soup bases,” there’s the miso carbonara udon ($15) combining traditional Italian ingredients such as parmesan cheese and parsley with miso cream and seaweed. The kimchi chigae udon caters to the neighborhood’s Korean diners, while the sanratan udon ($16) derives its key flavors from kombu vinegar and white peppers to nearly mirror a hot and sour soup. Perhaps the most innovative recipe is the cheese niku curry ($16), where the base is a spicy mix of Japanese and Indian curry sauces topped with melted mozzarella and chunks of New Zealand grass-fed ribeye.

A glazed piece of meat sits atop a small salad of greens. In the background, a bowl of edamame is topped with red seasoning.
Negoya-style chicken wings
Carolina Steele/Sen Udon
A pair of chopsticks tugs at a bowl of creamy noodles and greens
Salmon cream udon
Carolina Steele/Sen Udon
A close-up photograph of two crispy pieces of tempura, which sit atop a bowl of broth, greens, and other ingredients
Nebayaki udon
Carolina Steele/Sen Udon

On weekends, two more upscale dishes are available: uni cream udon and Wagyu beef sukiyaki udon, both ringing in at $29. While the noodle dishes surprise by pulling from different cultures, the sushi side of the menu also manages to stand out with a rarity even for New York’s Japanese restaurants. Sen Udon serves up oshi sushi, a version hailing from Osaka where the rice is often pressed into rectangular or circular shapes.

For the salmon oshi sushi ($15), Kotani stacks layers of salmon roe, raw salmon, sushi rice and seaweed into a circular form that gets cut into four pieces. An all-cooked inari oshi sushi ($13) comes with fried tofu, kanpyo (dried calabash shavings), denbu (fish flakes), carrots, shiitake mushroom, and sushi rice.

Rounding out the appetizers, the beef kimchi punch ($11), Sen Udon’s take on Korean barbecue, is served with lettuce wraps, rib-eye, kimchi, shio dare (scallion and sesame oil-based sauce), and yuzu kosho (fermented chile and yuzu paste); and edamame ($6) is sautéed in olive oil with peperoncino, garlic, and roasted salt.

As Sen Udon settles into its new home, which also features a garage door that opens up to the sidewalk, Chen and Kotani are currently experimenting with recipes they’ll eventually debut on the menu. Coming soon are beet-infused noodles and Taiwanese beef noodle soup, made instead with udon noodles. The latter is a nod to an old restaurant hit from Chen’s father, who now cooks at Sen Udon.

Sen Udon is open for takeout and indoor dining Monday to Thursday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. this week. Beginning on Friday, the restaurant will operate from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily with the possibility of closing on Mondays.

An indoor dining room is adorned with seasonal decorations, including red ribbons and small potted trees
The dining room at Sen Udon, which is open for indoor dining at 25 percent capacity
Caroline Shin/Eater

Sen Udon

39-32 Bell Boulevard, Queens, NY 11361 (929) 480-8180 Visit Website

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