If you've ever herded sheep on the Steppes, the borscht at Zogi's Euro Asian Bistro will make you think you're back out there, singing "Get along, little dogie," lining up at the chuck wagon, bowl in hand, after a long day in the saddle. Otherwise, you'll probably just think "Say, this is nice soup."
This version of borscht is Hungarian, the menu says, made from beets, of course, with beef and carrots and sour cream. It's one of the stars at Zogi's, which serves up dishes from what it calls "the regions where Europe meets Asia." A bowl of Zogi's borscht would be a good lunch by itself on a cold day, though it might be more than you could eat. We had it as an appetizer, the "cup," and that was a good amount of soup. The "bowl" must be a punchbowl. Another soup, Bantan, we found was excellent too. ("Mongolian flour lump soup with shredded beef and green onions.")
But before we go on in this vein, we should admit that on our first visit to Zogi's, we were not so impressed. The Beef Goulash, the top listing on the "Main Course" section of the menu, reminded us of the mushy beef stew served at undistinguished plate-lunch places. The Mongolian beef was similar, and nothing at all like the Mongolian beef in Chinese places around town. It may be more authentic, for all we know — we haven't been to Mongolia in ages — but it didn't taste as good. And, to be frank, there wasn't as much beef as we would have liked.
Then we paid a return visit to Zogi's, discovered the borscht and the Bantan, and our estimation of Zogi's went up sharply. And pretty much stayed there. The Tsuivan was a main dish we loved — steamed wheat noodles stir-fried with beef, fried potatoes and veggies. It came with a vinegary cole slaw that makes a nice complement to many of the entrees at Zogi's. The "Mongolian BBQ Ribs" were pleasingly meaty and came with a sauce that was sweet but not too sweet.
The "Cutlet" — that's all, no nationality given — was not so much to our liking, the fried beef a little tough. But occasional toughness happens everywhere. More troublesome was that the cutlet was kind of bland, not spicy. We were reminded that many ethnic dishes reputed to be hot are lukewarm at most in Little Rock restaurants. Probably because the restaurateurs have learned that Little Rock diners prefer them that way. There's a Thai place near our office, and we like the food, but not even the curry is very hot. We digress.
There were no desserts on the menu, and the waitress didn't ask us if we wanted dessert. The Zogi's ambiance is about what you'd expect for an eatery in a strip mall that includes wing joints and take-out pizza places.
Summing up, there were some things we liked a lot about Zogi's and some not so much, but we definitely want to go back. There's a problem facing the restaurant — the waitress said they plan to correct it — and that is that it lacks an alcohol permit. Not very bistroish. If Zogi's is going to make it, it'll have to make it with the kind of people who like a nice wine or beer with their meals.
Zogi's Euro Asian Bistro
11321 W. Markham St., Suite 4
There are things on the menu here you've probably never heard of and can't pronounce, and some of them are quite good. Even the ones with English names, like "Cutlet," are apt to be not exactly what you expected.
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
No alcohol. Credit cards accepted.