Before we go, I have to ask Ellis: "What does that 'Got pugua?' mean?"
"Pugua's betel nut," he says. "Older people have been chewing it for thousands of years." Seems it's a stimulant. Perks you up like coffee or nicotine.
Desserts aren't big here. They could have countless sweet fruits like papayas, guavas, mangos, but there are only cakes. We're too full anyway.
"It's surprisingly familiar food for somewhere so far from, like, everywhere," says Hank. The boy's right. Guam's 2356 miles southeast of Tokyo, 3800 miles west of Hawaii, and a day ahead. Across the dateline. "That's why they say Guam is 'where America's day begins,'" Hank says. He flaps the door shut. "And also why they say: 'Here today, Guam tomorrow.'"
Ooh. How do you top that?
"Or," I say, "'Chamorro's another day.'"
"Yokozuna's has been going on since November 1999," says Ellis Quenga, Yokozuna's catering coordinator. "Guamanians, all islanders, are very festive people. We love to entertain. If there are only four people, we don't just cook enough for four people. We cook plenty. The owners wanted to create something real [suitable] for parties. The place is owned by two Filipinos, a Mexican, and a Guamanian. Uncle Frank set the flavor. He had many years of entertaining, so with his knowledge, this just kind of fell into place.
"The food here is a lot about Pacific Rim, especially Hawaii. In the beginning they tried to do a little more traditional menu with Guamanian food, adobos and estafaos, and kadon pikas, but it didn't go as well as they'd hoped. So now there are a lot fewer traditional islander [dishes] here. We focus more on the more popular items, the kelaguens, the ribs, the red rice and potato salad. And we have adjusted some things to fit the customers' liking. Like the cucumber salad: we don't usually put a vinaigrette on it in Guam. We usually use a soy sauce. But we don't do that here because a lot of [other] food items are based on soy. Or kelaguen: It's a form of ceviche. It's supposed to be uncooked, but we can't do that here. And they make a lot more different kinds back home, like with deer meat.
"The most popular dish is the Chamorro combo. It is Guam. Nine out of ten go for it. But our teriyaki bowls are popular too. Everyone knows teriyaki chicken and rice."
Why "Yokozuna's"? "It was a name given by the owners. In Japanese it means 'Grand Champion,' among sumo wrestlers. I know a lot of people, when they see the name, and 'sushi bar,' they assume it's a Japanese restaurant. We still get customers who have been living around the corner who didn't realize that we have an extensive menu of islander food. But we're one of a kind, a full-service, sit-down restaurant, versus a lot of other islander restaurants that serve on 'to-go' paper plates. We're not saying this is a four-star restaurant, but as far as full-service with wait staff, and glass plates, that's how we operate."
I asked him about the role of women in Guam. "They are a very big part of the society there," he said. "The Marianas were taken over by Germany, Japan, Spain, America, so there have been a lot of different influences. We're mixed up, as far as the cultures are concerned. It's a very westernized island. Once the settlers started coming in, Chamorros became the minority. Forty percent. But the women held on to our culture. They passed it on, mother to daughter. And nowadays, it's mandatory for kids K through 12 to take Chamorro classes, so they don't lose their language. So yeah, it's a very Americanized society out there, but we haven't lost ourselves, and men and women have always respected each other. Like, the males will cook. It's not designated 'women only.'"