Chef Jackie Chang split from the much-touted Umi Sushi in Buckhead, where the likes of Elton John have been spotted. Open just five months, District M is taking on Sandy Springs, perhaps with less competition for upscale contemporary nigiri, sushi, Japanese hot dishes and signature cocktails, all artfully assorted. On our night to visit, Chef Yang was running the kitchen.
The two-level interior has a snazzy entrance and view into the open kitchen and 16-seat sushi bar. The body of the restaurant has two levels darkly lit, black on black. No shouting here. The music also is not so loud as to limit conversation, which seems to be the trend today.
Our server was knowledgeable, stating that shipments come in two times a week from Korea and Japan and vary with seasons, like the snapper season, which we just missed. Service is on authentic black stoneware with Japanese script, often recessed in wood block boards.
We started with the Minty Cucumber signature cocktail: Ketel One vodka muddled with fresh mint, cucumber, lemon juice and agave, not too sweet and very refreshing. The wines were about $10 a glass. Next time we will try the Cherry Blossom: including Cointreau and a strawberry passion fruit cube, which sounds intriguing.
Since it was a rainy night, we started with miso soup, which came piping hot, … not distinctive enough for another go. The seaweed salad was mixed with quinoa for a nice touch, and the field green salad (enough to share) was indeed farm fresh with firm yellow tomatoes and avocado wedges. The salad came with a choice of ginger or pineapple dressing. We opted for the ginger, which was just fine but probably from a bottle. Think pineapple here.
The hot dishes are prepared (infused) over the charcoal grill; but the server was quick to point out that the food never touches the fire. We particularly liked the side of grilled tomatoes and the Chilean sea bass entrée. The latter had a moon shape of crushed red pepper to add at one’s own pace. Don’t expect rice to be served as a side dish.
Next time I would go for the bronzini with sumiso sauce or miso-glazed black cod.
What We Went Crazy Over
- Contemporary nigiri with rows of wasabi crème fraiche salmon with green tea salt, and citrus bits on one side, with super fatty tuna topped with black truffles on the other. Caviar is a smart addition. Someone said the truffles were “massaged,” but other than kale being “massaged,” I’ve not experienced that. They sure were flavorful.
- Smoked hamachi carpaccio, shaped like a starfish and topped with jalapenos
- Spicy tuna, shiso, avocado roll – very artfully done with mysterious layers and worth fighting over.
- Desserts were unusually well presented and “rich without being rich.” Table favorite was the green tea pudding and the chocolate mousse laced with rum–not at all sweet, which made it stand out. One dessert was accented with red bean paste and artful use of fresh raspberries and blueberries. Japanese pudding on caramel was my least favorite, but I normally don’t go for the flans.
District M is not inexpensive, but there’s a heightened quality that one might find in Japan’s northernmost archipelago, feeling like whoever sliced the fish or positioned it on the plate had serious and intentional thought about what they were doing. District M’s success may lie with event times tied to the very nearby City Springs performing arts venue and the wellspring of new upscale apartments and townhouses nearby. If you like your tuna purple and plump, it’s sure to please.
More adventurous diners would go for “Chef’s Special” combinations such as four-set course Bishamonten (Japanese Buddhish god of wealth and treasure) for $60 or a six-set course for $90. There are tempuras and “by the piece” for smaller appetites. The menu is extensive and challenging enough to interpret, which the servers are happy to do.
District M is at 6125 Roswell Road in the Modera Sandy Springs apartments adjacent to Casi Cielo. There is valet parking, but also free retail parking in the rear. It is open seven days a week for dinner. Initially they opened for lunch but eliminated that option.