While I am no Southern comfort food expert, I take my fried birds seriously. Deep fried food is profoundly rooted in Taiwanese cuisine, with which I grew up. You could see deep fried chicken among all night food markets and restaurants alike. Therefore, I was delighted to find out The Cardinal is a new addition to East Village, which is saturated with Asian and Italian restaurants.
I came with my husband and another couple, who were also eager to taste some American food after spending a month in Asia, eating not much butter, grease or meat in general. The decor is simple yet cozy. Exposed brick walls with whitewashed paint are decorated with antique cabinet and old books on shelves. There are few tables on the main floor and more in the basement. The vibe is casual and welcoming and we were seated comfortably close to the kitchen and bar to see some of the behind-the-scene action.
The menu itself is light weight. There are no more than 30 items and I identified my target easily – fried chicken with two sides. That sounds like the most logical choice, right? My husband without hesitation got the carnivore choice – BBQ platter, including 3 out of 4 choices of pulled pork, links, ribs and beef brisket. It also comes with two sides. The fried chicken was a big heap and impressed I was. There are 1 drumstick, 1 giant breast and a big thigh. The birds are surprisingly skinless but they are crispy and crunchy on the outside and juicy and tender inside. They are delicious with their house hot sauce but I think they would be even better with some additional spices. I am just saying.My husband’s BBQ platter is somewhat disappointing. Despite a pile of meat, they appear full and dry and they taste it. The pulled pork are tender but lacks the marinate to keep them in place. The ribs look malnourished and the briskets again are missing the moisture. My friend’s deep fried pork chops look much more promising however. He was pretty happy with them.
The real winner to me is this side dish. We both got the Candied Yam and it comes with melted marshmallows on top and meshed yam with brown sugar at the bottom. It is like I am eating flan, rich, sweet and irresistible. Mac n cheese is rather rich but lacks the melted cheese to bond the macaroni together. Instead, the macaroni is somewhat hard and not bonding together like they should. Maybe this is better for my health?!
Overall, I was satisfied with my choice although my husband was let down by his entree. The Cardinal has proved to be good but it can be great. The neighborhood needs a shiny star of Southern Comfort and it is not doing justice just yet.