12 Islands Taverna - Millburn
A friend who lives in Millburn gave me a heads-up that this place was coming in, and I finally had a chance to try it. Let me say up front that I am probably Stamna's (Bloomfield) biggest fan...I take people there all the time, recommend it when someone wants to try something a little different, and have had multiple birthday celebrations there (my own + friends'). I don't even bother to look at the menu any more, unless it's to point things out to a newbie. Also, I'm *not* Greek (even though the waiters always think I am).
Back to my ('hound) friend from Millburn. He said "You'll definitely like it, but it's not Stamna." I have to agree--BUT. 12 Islands is definitely putting out some very good food, and I'll definitely go back to try some other dishes.
We basically stuck with mezze, which is how I tend to order anyway--why have ONE entree when you can have many, many delicious plates to try?!? :-)
We ordered two spreads: melitzanosalata (eggplant), skordalia (cold mashed potatoes with a TON of garlic, as it should be) and dove in with the complimentary pita, olives, and cheese (feta?). We then went with my go-to dishes: octopus, loukaniko (sausage), zucchini fritters, lemon potatoes, gigantes (large white beans in a tomato sauce), and makarounes (the dish that originally got me to try Stamna). Sadly, they were out of makarounes. At the start of dinner service on a Saturday. I believe my comment to my friends was "It's not like you have to *source* the ingredients...it's pasta, caramelized onions, and grated cheese." In any case, we dove in to everything else, and across the board, we were really pleased! The octopus was perfectly cooked, the sausage delicious (albeit different flavors from the one at Stamna), the potatoes and gigantes yummy (although I missed the dill in the tomato sauce--it's part of what I love about the version at Stamna). The zucchini fritters were the standout, though. At Stamna, they're (for lack of a better description) "freeform"--here they look like large, squashed/molded falafel; not necessarily an appetizing color, but WOW, did they pack a wallop on flavor! The only thing missing was some kind of sauce...we were dragging them through the oil from the octopus and the potatoes, so it all worked out. :-)
For dessert we shared a piece of baklava, which was tasty but far too cold; I know that helps hold it together better, but the taste isn't as prominent!
I'm going to re-emphasize the fact that I really liked the food at 12 Islands, and the service was very warm; it's just tough when you have a favorite kind of food/favorite dishes and you compare them to your benchmark!
Note that there are only a few tables in the front of the restaurant, but a larger room in the back. They don't seem to have a website up, but the restaurant is located at 45 Main St. in Millburn, directly across the street from Martini Bistro. (973) 376-4300