Re-opened Japanese restaurant seeks second chance

Well-priced sushi restaurants are not always the easiest thing to come by. Good sushi dinners can run into the three-figure range for a party of four (or less, if one is feeling particularly hungry).  This is where Ru San’s comes in handy. Three of their seven Georgia locations are in the metro area: one is located in Buckhead, another in Edgewood and yet another in Midtown.

Ru San’s is best known for its large arsenal of rolls. Menus sport fifty-plus rolls along with the traditional maki rolls, nigiri, yakitori, soups and what seems to be all the other Japanese-style foods out there. The food is modestly priced and is a popular spot for college-age people to have a solid amount of food.

Located on 1529 Piedmont Avenue, the Midtown Ru San’s was shut down by the Fulton County Health Department this past August for failing health inspections consecutively in the last three years—June 2011, February 2012, April 2013 and July 2013. Management was given opportunities to close and clean up shop but denied the chance; the primary health hazard was an infestation of roaches in the service areas.

The Midtown location is now under new ownership, headed up by Thai Nguyan. Since the shutdown in August, they have gone through a full remodel and have hired new employees. Nguyan has been with the Ru San’s franchise for 20 years and is looking to turn this ship around. The Technique decided this was a prime opportunity to check it out.

Getting there is not so bad for those with access to a car. From the Buckhead location at Tower Place, it is a simple drive straight down Piedmont Ave. for three miles.

Those looking for an upbeat and modern area to eat in Atlanta may wish to look elsewhere. However, walking into the restaurant gives a different initial impression.

The interior has been reworked with a neon-lit, granite-top bar, stucco walls and white wood trim. The interior is impeccably clean. Booth seating is available and plentiful, while the bar provides seating for those who wish to enjoy watching sports on one of several flat screen TVs.

The menus have been reorganized but still show the massive roll selection as the main feature. Everything seems great at first. Really there is nothing to hate, but there is also nothing to love.

Coming from the packed and fun Tower Place location and walking into this one leaves a lackluster experience. The renovations begins to feel cheap and tacky quickly, which would be okay if they went 100 percent tacky; instead, everything feels halfway done.

The bar looks great, but the stucco walling and plain white trim, coupled with the cheap looking booths, just give this strange feeling like this restaurant does not know what it wants to be.

Food quality is also mediocre. It is good, but not awesome. We ordered the same food at both locations, and the maki and nigiri is significantly smaller; the actual tastes were not quite as good.

Service was strangely slow as well, and there were only five other patrons. All and all though, we are just comparing one Ru San’s to another. It is not meant to be high-end sushi; it is really all about the price point and options.

This is, without a doubt, a good first step for the Midtown spot. There is a lot of potential for the newly-renovated location, but it has yet to be realized. At least they have the sanitation down. Frankly, it is best to go the three extra miles and have a great time at the Tower Place location in Buckhead.

Our Take: 3/5