Park your car at the northern entrance of the Jefferson Valley Mall and from the outside you may think Stone Rose is just another steakhouse.
But once you enter its doors and make your way around the hostess stand, past a private dining area and up to the large wooden bar, you’ll realize this isn’t your typical sit-down eatery at the mall.
Two large, stuffed mountain lions, one with jaws open and teeth showing, perch on a tree’s roots and branches, part of a scene that spans the bar area and is bookended by two big-screen televisions showing the latest news in sports on ESPN.
“I wanted a lion, but it was too big,” said Jack Xiao, owner of Stone Rose.
Located on the mall’s ground floor at 650 Lee Blvd., Stone Rose is dotted with plush red booths and dark marble tabletops. Wicker chairs sit around smaller tables near floor-to-ceiling windows at the front of the restaurant, while a line of oversized light fixtures hang from the ceiling on the opposite end.
There’s an Asian stone sculpture, a photo of the New York City skyline that spans an interior wall and a carving of Napoleon Bonaparte on horseback.
“This vision, I had in my head like 10 years ago, but it takes a lot of money to do that,” Xiao said. “You have to find the right people to make it all work.”
For Xiao, those right people included good friends from China who made a trip to the U.S. to help design the bar area.
“Everything material here is all handpicked by me,” he said. “Silverware, the lighting, the sound system, design. Everything is me.”
The restaurant’s menu is nearly as eclectic as its decor. Stone Rose offers a mix of steaks and meat cuts, like a tomahawk rib eye or porterhouse, along with a raw bar and an array of sushi entrées and specialty rolls.
The 6,000-square-foot restaurant, which Xiao said has a capacity of 200, also features a separate dining area that seats 20 and could be used for business meetings or celebrations and an outdoor patio for warmer months.
“I figured this concept was very powerful because the sushi and the steakhouse, I hadn’t really seen that before, and I wanted to combine it together and see what the chemical reaction would be,” he said. “I believe the reaction is going to be good and (the community) will accept us.”
Born in Fuzhou, China, Xiao immigrated to the United States with his parents when he was 15 and settled in Yorktown. His family, all of whom are in the restaurant business, owns and operates China Star, a pair of takeout Chinese restaurants in Shrub Oak and downtown Yorktown Heights.
“They’re all hard-working, very hard-working,” he said. “I learned that from them.”
Xiao, also, owns Wild Fusion, a sushi restaurant, grill and bar in Mohegan Lake. The restaurant had a second outpost in White Plains before it closed last year.
A Yorktown resident himself, Xiao said the residents of his hometown were part of the reason he chose to open a restaurant at the mall.
“I also wanted to work on something that people had never done before.”
It took 18 months to transform the formerly vacant space that once housed J.B. Dannigans into the restaurant Xiao envisioned. He declined to disclose the cost of the buildout.
“It was not easy, but we made it,” he said. “The hard work paid off.”
Since its grand opening on Dec. 30, Stone Rose has enjoyed foot traffic from the mall, Xiao said, but “we have to get a reputation, word of mouth. I believe that’s going to take time.”
The restaurant is open seven days a week, serving both lunch and dinner, but is still waiting on a liquor license. Xiao hopes to secure that license in the coming weeks.
Though Xiao may have handpicked nearly every detail of the eatery, that doesn’t mean he’s resistant to changing those details.
“We’re going to replace all the furniture,” he said, adding that he had already ordered new seating for the entire restaurant. “I don’t like the way it looks.”
In response to some online backlash over its pricing, the menu will also soon see an overhaul.
“I stayed up very late last night and scratched all the menu out and asked, ‘What do people need?’” said the self-taught chef, who developed the menu himself. “I will stick with my goal and my concept, but take in people’s comments, good or bad, and blend them.”
The restaurant’s opening also marks a milestone for Jefferson Valley Mall, the 550,000-square-foot, two-floor shopping center just off Route 6.
Owned by Columbus, Ohio-based Washington Prime Group, the mall is in the midst of a $40 million redevelopment project, one that began after the real estate investment trust bought the property from Simon Property Group in 2015.
The project includes a number of exterior upgrades, new retailers and upgraded food court. Another separate restaurant, fast-casual eatery My Pie Pizza, is expected to open its doors soon.
“We are thrilled. The design, the level of detail,” Alexa O’Rourke, marketing director for the mall, said of Stone Rose. “We are beyond excited to offer a place for people to sit down and extend their time here.”