LOWELL -- A beef tenderloin sizzled and sputtered on a slab of dark granite sitting in front of Michael Cavaleiro as he as his brother Manny spoke of the presentation of the meal, which guests cook themselves at their table.

"If they overcook it, they can't blame the chef," Michael said.

Very little labor is required to prepare the Steak on a Stone at the brothers' restaurant, Cavaleiro's -- the filet only needs five minutes on the imported 400-degree stone to reach medium temperature. It could take up to 15 minutes for it to cook all the way through for diners who prefer their meat prepared well done, but it leaves plenty of time for conversation and a glass of wine, perhaps the Vinha do Almo (a red wine with hints of plum, blackberry, and spice) from Portugal's Alentejo region,

"With fine dining you expect to take a little extra time and enjoy your entrée," Manny said.

Another eye-catching dish at the eatery is the Paelha Valenciana, a saffron rice-based recipe that the matriarch of the Cavaleiro family would prepare for her sons on special occasions. The dish, piled high with a medley of chicken, pork, clams, mussels, scallops, green peppers, linguica, shrimp, calamari, and half a lobster, is cooked and served in a cataplana, a copper shell-like pot used for steaming food.

The menu at Cavaleiro's, updated twice annually, has since grown from solely Portuguese fare to include offerings from around the Mediterranean.

The Cavaleiro brothers opened their Lawrence Street restaurant in December 2004. Their parents purchased the large brick building in 1979, and ran from there the first Portuguese restaurant in the Mill City until 1989. When tenants vacated the space in 2003, the brothers saw an opportunity.

"It's only been a restaurant for 30 years," Michael said. "Why not keep it a restaurant? Keep the tradition?"

Cavaleiro's

573 Lawrence St., Lowell, 978-458-2800, cavaleirosrestaurant.com

  • Hours: Tues.-Wed., 5-10 p.m., Thurs.-Fri., 5-11 p.m., Sat., 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun., 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Closed Monday.
  • Parking: A ton of offstreet parking on both sides of the restaurant.
  • Reservations: Accepted.
  • Menu: Portuguese dishes and other Mediterranean-inspired creations. The restaurant also offers a kids menu. 
  • Price range: $16-$30
  • Atmosphere: Casual fine dining
  • Try this: Steak on a Stone, Paehla Valenciana, House Style Shishkabob (beef kabobs on a hanging skewer, mixed with linguica and peppers, served with rice and fries), Portuguese Steak (12-ounce pan fried steak topped with brown gravy, a fried egg, and prosciutto), and Filet de Sole (sole pan fried with bananas, fish sauce and banana liqueur)
  • For dessert: Crème Brulee, Flan, Rice Pudding, and Pasteis de Nata (custard cakes akin to those of a famed bakery in Lisbon)
  • Upcoming events: The restaurant will host comedian Dave Russo on Friday, Jan. 11. Tickets are $20.