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Oct 28, 2013 06:33 PM

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'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

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  1. I think I rode by this place on the hotel shuttle at my sister-in-law's wedding a few weeks ago. I'm a sucker for anything Greek / Gyros, thanks for the review. This will be on my radar.

    1. Thanks. I am always looking for good Greek food.

      1. Stopped by for dinner on Saturday night, and really enjoyed the food.

        We stuck with a mix of cold and hot starters and a salad. The portions are sizable. The "Pikilia tis Pareas" is an assortment of 5 mezedes -- the melitzanosalata (eggplant), tzatziki (cucumber & yogurt), hummus, fava bean spread, and skordalia (mashed potato) -- with pita, and can easily feed 3 people. The hummus this night featured chick peas and black eyed peas, which gave it a non-traditional color. All were really good and had great texture. All had healthy amounts of garlic.

        The oktapodi (cold octopus salad) was more pickled and vinegary than I've had anywhere else (think giardiniera), and it really grew on me as I kept going back to it throughout the meal.

        The Ellinikia salata (greek salad) was also large, and well-balanced; tasted very fresh. Big chunks of feta too.

        The Gigantes beans in tomato sauce were ok, and were probably the weakest dish of the evening. Usually a favorite of mine, the tomato sauce seemed a little BBQ saucy here.

        Finally the oktapodi sta karvouna (grilled octopus) -- yes we had octopus two ways in one meal! -- was simple, charred, and satisfying.

        All in, I think the tab was about $70 (not including the wine) for the two of us, and included several unfinished items to take home.

        Service by the FOH and the wait-staff was very pleasant and eager to please. I'll be back to try some of their main courses, which include traditional greek dishes (and a vegetarian variety of moussaka in addition to the one with ground beef), grilled meats, and seafood including a whole fish of the day.

        The place was packed by 7:30 PM, but tables turned-over at a pretty good pace. With the warmer weather, there's a couple of tables out front on Main St, and several more in the courtyard in the back.

        It's BYOB, and they have a nice little arrangement with UnWined Boutique, next door. The restaurant has a brief list of bottles and prices, you can make a quick call and there's free delivery, or you can run out the back door, visit the shop and pick something out yourself. Restaurant patrons get a 10% discount.

        Open for lunch (Monday - Friday) and dinner (7 days).

        Take care: as of this date, the Millburn location is not accepting reservations. And the listing on OpenTable which is clearly labeled "12 Islands of Stirling" is for the Stirling location only.


        Ref: bropaul's recent review of the Stirling location here:

        1. Glad to hear they are doing good things in Millburn,too. I have been to Stirling twice and both times it was excellent.

          1. Got to 12 Islands, Millburn last Saturday evening. The place was hopping - every table was filled. The waiter apologized in advance that the kitchen was backed-up, but we were in no hurry, and in the end, it was not a problem.There were 5 of us so we got a 5 different mezes: mini- spinach pies (had some sesame seeds on top, which I have never seen before, but good),beets with skordalia, dolmades, eggplant spread and taramasalata. All were very good. The menu definitely leans towards fish, 3 had the shrimp alla taverna, one flounder stuffed with crabmeat, and one whole grilled branzino. All were excellent. I had the briam as a side and it was good, but a little watery. I had the galaktaboureko for dessert, but I have to admit, the put something in it that I don't care for - cardamom? All in all, a very positive experience, though I still think the Stirling location has the edge.