With a quick corner turn off Academy Road onto Centennial Street, you'll find Meal Set Bistro (with a small convenient parking lot in the back).
At first blush, the name doesn't scream, "we serve Asian tapas & sushi," but put aside your preconceived notions and checkout this 30-seat restaurant with shiny black tabletops and tall red chairs along the sushi bar. The service is friendly and attentive; and you'll be impressed with their extensive menu options and delighted by their $10 Happy Hour dine-in options available every Tuesday to Friday (5 p.m. - 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. - close).
The restaurant also has Daily Specials, such as BOGO kalbi short ribs on Fridays.
What's behind the name?
Owner, Ken Nguyen, who is of Vietnamese and Chinese descent said it all started back in 2017 while he was working full-time as a chef. In his free time he and his wife Char would help their friends meal prep, an extracurricular activity that quickly developed into a side-business concept. Soon, they were operating Meal Set Go, a meal-prep and healthy catering company out of a commercial kitchen that can tailor custom meals for specific diets including–but not limited to–gluten-free, vegetarian, pescatarian, whole food, paleo, and ketogenic diets.
When the opportunity arose for the couple to purchase the business space at 612-B Academy Road, they decided to expand their brand by calling the new restaurant Meal Set Bistro.
The restaurant opened in December 2019. While doomscrolling during the pandemic on Winnipeg social media, you might have come across Meal Set's eye-catching 2020 Roll–a salmon, tuna and avocado roll wrapped in a colourful soybean sheet with multiple ginger cilantro infuser pipettes sticking out of it. Chef Ken and his team understand the importance of presenting visually appealing dishes to bring in guests, and provide vibrant food content for social media posts.
The 2020 Roll has remained on the menu since day one, while other recommendations include the guy tataki–featuring lightly seared beef sliced thin with scallions, fried onions, a tart and tangy ponzu sauce, and Asian sesame sauce.
Another Instagram-ready dish is the Volcano Fries, a generous bed of sweet potato fries topped with crab mix, tuna, nori, jalapeño, scallions, parmesan, spicy sauce, and unagi sauce made from sake, mirin, sugar and soy sauce. We're also fans of the “new style sashimi,” where chef Ken pours hot oil with ginger, scallions and ponzu sauce over a selection of raw fish.
The current seafood risotto from their special features menu (limited time) is a must if the idea of lobster, scallops, prawns and shiitake mushroom mixed in creamy, cheesy goodness speaks to the comforts of your soul.
Chef Ken appreciates the freedom to change up his special features menu to reflect the seasonality of ingredients and to try out new flavour combinations.
Be sure to follow @mealsetbistro to know what's coming for spring/summer. If al fresco dining is your thing, the restaurant opens their 14-seat patio when temperatures allow.
When asked what Chef Ken would like readers to know about his restaurant, his parting words were, "Please give us a try; we'll let our food speak for itself."
Meal Set Bistro is located at 612-B Academy Road (south side of the street, right near the end), and is open Tuesday to Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 5 to 10 p.m.