Among the well-traveled, well-heeled, fast-moving Istanbul set, Restaurant Develi is known as a “carnivore’s mecca” for the incredible quality of its lamb kebabs. The kebabs, made from hand-chopped lamb laced with plenty of sheep’s tail fat, taste great and literally melt in your mouth.
Good as the kebabs are, it’s the red lentil soup that keeps bringing me back. Creamy as crème fraîche, it seems to coat the tongue with satin. It’s sharply seasoned, too, garnished with paprika, a mint-infused olive oil sizzle, and tiny cubes of toasted bread. It is amazing how much a simple scattering of bread cubes can lift a dish.
Owner Arif Develi watches over his restaurant as closely as Venetian Harry Cipriani watches over his. Arif considers himself a culinary guardian. Sounding a little like a California chef, he tells me: “I only use young male lambs from the region of Trakya. I buy my lentils from Gaziantep, my butter from Sanliurfa, my red pepper and rice from Kahraman-maras. You see, I use only the finest ingredients!
“When I was growing up in southeastern Turkey,” Arif tells me, “my mother, a widow, had to watch every penny. To stretch this soup, she added cubed and toasted bread. I still keep the tradition!”
The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen by Paula Wolfert. Copyright © 2003 by Paula Wolfert. Photographs copyright © by Christopher Hirsheimer. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.