Foodie Friday: Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar

Here in Chicago we have many wonderful restaurants and it’s often hard to choose where to go for a special event. We had such a choice recently when our son and daughter-in-law were in town and we wanted to have a family dinner. When the Michelin Guide 2014 Recommended Union Sushi and Barbeque Bar popped up in the discussion, I was sold. It’s one of my all-time favorites.

Click into photo for source

Click into photo for source

I also wanted to try out some new photography techniques I have been learning from an online food photography class that I am taking. It’s called Food Photography: from plate to photo from Craftsy and I’m hooked already.

Our adult children love this restaurant and were already primed with what they wanted to eat. Most of us started with the tuna cup — it was awesome. As you can see, my camera wasn’t convinced where it wanted to focus at first, and we decided to add some side lighting with our cell phone flashlights. At this point, I didn’t really care what the other diners thought; we were in a somewhat secluded corner and I was having good luck with the photography!

Tuna Cup Union Sushi and BBQ Bar

Tuna Cup — sashimi in an edible sesame cup

Since Union has a happy hour and we were happily there for a six o’clock reservation, we had $1 oysters, 2.25 beef filet skewers, and $4 shrimp tempura rolls. They also have lovely drinks and are known for their hot sake.

The photos got better as we began to figure out where to place the side lights.

Oysters on the Half Shell Union Sushi and BBQ

Oysters on the half shell with red tobiko, green onion, crispy shallot, and jalapeno cilantro ponzu

The photos were a little hot in spots, so I tried using the menu as a scrim to diffuse the light. The paper stock of the menu was too thick to really use it, but there was definitely some light getting through. The photo on the right side was taken using the menu as a scrim, which made the light look yellow.

Shrimp Tempura Roll Union Sushi and BBQ

Shrimp Tempura Roll with avocado, eel sauce, caramelized onion and masago-mayo

We ordered a lot of small dishes, and every one of them was beautifully plated. For the photo on the left, I used Picmonkey post-processing to bring out the green color of the sauce and the green onions.

Mushroom Dumplings Union Sushi and BBQ

Mushroom dumplings with fontinella, green onion, and garlic-chive sauce.

Soft-shelled crab rolls are a personal favorite, and these were scrumptious. The side lighting made the ingredients jump off the photo, but this would have benefited from a scrim to avoid the hot spot in the corner.

Soft-Shelled Crab Roll Union Sushi and BBQ

Soft Shell Crab Roll with lettuce, fried ginger, avocado, rice puff, sesame paste, green onion, sweet chili sauce and wrapped in cucumber.

At this point, we were all engaged in the lighting experiment. 🙂 The camera I am using is a Sony DSC RX100M3, the perfect pocket camera for food photography.

Food Photography 202The result was worth it, though! While these two photos are very similar, you can see that the left one has deeper shadows and the lettuce is a brighter green. We used both back lighting and side lighting, as you can see in the photo above. (Love those kids!!)

Barbequed Chicken Thigh Union Sushi and BBQ

Barbequed chicken thigh with Japanese curry sauce

I knew that the black rice rolls were going to require some decent lighting to pick up the contrast, and this worked out pretty well. Can you imagine how boring this photo would be if you just took it straight on without the shallow depth-of-field and without the side lighting? According to the menu, black rice has a firm texture and boasts fewer carbs and calories than white rice. At this point, we were all carefully watching our carb intake. 🙂 NOT.

Black Rice Sushi Roll Sampler Union Sushi and BBQ

Black Rice Sushi Roll Sampler with Hokkaido, Dragon, Spicy Tuna, and Devon Rolls.

Every photo story has its failures, and I definitely have a few. There is such a thing as too much light, and it’s hard to recover from that. This beef was absolutely delectable and perfectly cooked, but you can’t tell it from the photos.

Beef Filet Skewer

Beef Filet Skewer with a ginger soy sauce

What’s dinner without a fabulous dessert?

Pumpkin Mochi Cake Union Sushi and BBQ

Pumpkin Mochi Cake with cream cheese meringue, caramel, and pumpkin seed brittle

Pistachio Cream in Sesame Brittle Cup Union Sushi and BBQ

Pistachio Cream with pistachio powder and almond brittle in a sesame brittle cup.

If I lived in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, I’d be tempted to make Union Sushi and Barbeque Bar my local pub. It doesn’t take itself so seriously that a suburban mom and dad feel like fish out of water and the food is worth the drive. If you’re in town, be sure to make a reservation for a great meal!

Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar, 230 West Erie St., Chicago, Illinois 60654, 312.662.4888

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4 thoughts on “Foodie Friday: Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar

  1. That looks like quite the place! The food looks great! You’re learning some valuable photography information from the sounds of it. I don’t know if your camera can go to manual focus but that’s another way to beat the focus issue when that happens. I’ll have to share the name of this place with my niece. She lives in Manhattan, Illinois now but they’re in Chicago all the time.

  2. The food looks delicious, of course. But the photography skills you’re learning in your class is wonderful! I’m taking a photography class with Craftsy right now, too. It’s not about food photography, but I’m learning so much! It’s just so hard to carve out the time to develop the skills. Thanks for sharing yours!

  3. This all looks amazing! I was in Omaha over my holidays for a wedding and I was shocked to find such great sushi in the midwest and was impressed too! That pistachio cream thing looks delicious at the end.

  4. The food all looks delicious! Learning to photograph food can be a lot of trail and error, I still learn new things every time I take a photo 🙂 It looks like your learning to use your camera and love taking pictures, keep up the good work!

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