There are lots of pizza places in Hong Kong, ranging from utterly forgettable to totally fantastic, and given the wildly varying levels of quality, finding the perfect pie isn’t always easy (unless, of course, you’ve checked out our list of the city’s best pizzas joints).
In that regard, Emmer Pizzeria & Café — the latest spot jostling for a slice of Hong Kong’s crowded pizza market — functions a bit like a microcosm of the city’s pizza scene itself: it’s certainly not bad, but it is a tad uneven.
Emmer opened its doors to customers at the beginning of February, and is owned by the Greater China Restaurant Company, whose portfolio includes Beef & Liberty and its plant-based offshoot Leaves & Liberty. Its executive chef is Philippine-born Karla Mendoza, who has years of experience serving up pizzas in L.A., New York and Singapore. With Emmer, she’ll now be competing with hometown heroes like Kytaly, Alvy’s, and Homeslice.
At a glance, Emmer’s menu is very simple. There are only four sections — appetizers, salads, pizzas, and desserts — and only six pies: margherita, mushroom, four cheese, parma ham, marinara, and diavola. All of the offerings skew traditional, not that that’s a bad thing, but sticking to the classics only ups the pressure on the pizzas to taste outstanding.
Before we get into whether that is the case, first, a quick word about Emmer’s crust: it’s made with rye, Italian flour and, as the joint’s name suggests, Emmer wheat, a so-called “ancient grain” that belongs to the farro family. The slow-fermented dough is rolled into 11-inch Neapolitan-ish pies that are mostly chewy with a bit of crispiness, which is good for those who like crusts that sit somewhere between pillowy and thin, but maybe less so for those who prefer the cracker-like crunch of a Roman-style crust.
That crust, however, means all the pies have that age-old problem of holding up well enough near the edge, but being just a little soggy closer to the middle. As such, slices either need to be folded and wolfed down, or, god forbid, eaten with a knife and fork. That minor gripe aside, we still found the crust tasty.
The standout pie for us was the Funghi (HK$138), topped with portobello and cremini mushrooms, and sprinkled with fontina, mozzarella, taleggio, parmigiano reggiano, and thyme.
We were suspicious at first, given the conspicuous lack of red sauce, but after the first bite, we realized that tomato sauce would have easily overwhelmed the earthiness of the juicy mushrooms.
The Parma (HK$168) was also a hit, and featured high quality Italian mozzarella, prosciutto di parma, and tomato sauce, topped with a handful of rocket. The tang from the sauce, the saltiness of the ham, and the pepperiness of the greenery made for a very enjoyable combination.
We also tried the Diavola (HK$148) — with tomato sauce, mozzarella, salami, basil, and red chile — which, while a decent-tasting pizza, left us a tad cold thanks to the lack of spice that’s the defining characteristic of a Diavolo. (It’s named after the devil for a reason, after all.)
A few more red chiles would have really given the pie some kick, and while you can request extra toppings on your pizzas, at 18 bucks, having to do so would be a bit of a bummer.
Emmer is also trying to win over its share of the brunch crowd with one of its star offerings: the Khachapuri (HK$98), a sort of boat-shaped Georgian flatbread stuffed with mozzarella and feta, and topped with a free-range egg whose runny yolk is an Instagram Boomerang just waiting to happen.
Surprisingly light, and not overpoweringly cheesy, the Khachapuri is a good, gooey brunch option, but if we had to be picky, a dash of a slightly stronger cheese might have given it a little more character.
Overall, Emmer focuses on keeping things simple and using very high-quality ingredients, which the price reflects. You can expect to spend somewhere between HK$200 to HK$300 for a meal, including a drink.
Good for the office crowd in Admiralty, and those looking for another place to add to their roster of brunch spots, Emmer is an pizzeria that shows a lot of promise, but it’ll need a few tweaks (more chiles on the Diavolo, please!) before it can stand slice-to-slice with Hong Kong’s finest.
Emmer Pizzeria & Café is at 4/F, Pacific Place, Admiralty
Reservations: +852 2780 1110
Mon-Fri, 7:30am-9:30pm; Sat-Sun, 10am-9:30pm
MTR: Admiralty (approx. 5 minute walk)