Alvy’s, named for the character Alvy Singer in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, intends to evoke the feel of a neighborhood New York pizza and beer joint. With its sourdough pizza dough, novel toppings and craft beer from Hong Kong’s Young Master group, Alvy’s appeal is more hipster than dive, but in yuppie Kennedy Town, that is about the right fit.
Alvy’s is located on quiet Holland Street and is actually closer to the Belchers exit of HKU Station than the Kennedy Town MTR itself. The restaurant is designed to evoke a New York mood with exposed brick walls, a long wooden bar and a mix of tables and booths. Towards the rear, is a visible pizza oven emblazoned with the moniker “Big Red Bitch.”
The food menu is nicely brief and starts with a selection of salads and “noshes”, that term deriving from the Yiddish for nibbles or snacks, and essentially a list of appetizers. Then, there are seven pizzas to choose from, all one size, plus a singular dessert item. In addition to the pizzas on the menu, there is also typically a special. The pizzas are good for two people to share along with a couple of the appetizers.
I have had the pleasure of three visits over the course of the past month and tried three of the pizzas along with a number of noshes. The fundamental strength of Alvy’s pizza is its delicious pizza dough. The dough is a handmade sourdough variety that, when baked, produces a thick chewy crust at the edge, thinning towards the middle and is hearty enough to support the toppings on offer. No soggy bottoms here.
The toppings include traditional pizza fare like sausage and mushrooms but the emphasis at Alvy’s is on slightly more novel offerings often with a local twist. Most visually arresting is the Sichuan inspired ma-la-di-da pizza (HKD158). This pie is slathered with a spicy tomato sauce and topped with salumi picante, otherwise known as pepperoni, ‘nduja, another type of pork salami, soft mozzarella and a mound of dried, red chili peppers like you would find on many a Sichuan dish. The peppers are not meant to be consumed but in addition to the visual effect they thoroughly infuse the pizza with their spicy essence. Admittedly, this spicy dish may not be for everyone as, in addition to the peppery heat, the mix of salami also produces a somewhat oily finish.
A healthier looking alternative is the Fort Greene pizza (HKD158), a vegetarian option, with basil pesto, shaved asparagus, mushrooms and more of the soft mozzarella. Here, in lieu of inedible chili peppers, the center of the pizza is covered with a twisted mound of the asparagus, thinly shaved and almost crispy. It’s a nice way to eat asparagus and a very good vegetarian pizza.
My favorite from Alvy’s so far though has been the bak gwei pizza (HKD128). Obvious to anyone in Hong Kong, this is a white-colored pizza. It consists of a mix of gruyere béchamel cheese and mozzarella topped with diced Hong Kong style barbecued pork (char siu) and seasoned with geung yeong, the traditional spring onion and ginger paste served at Cantonese barbecue restaurants. The combination of the creamy cheese, rich pork and dollops of the geung yeong made for a marriage of flavors that was meant to be. I have long thought that a similarly delicious result might be achieved with a pizza topping of the Chinese lap cheong sausage and would encourage Alvy’s to experiment along these lines.
The noshes at Alvy’s are also quite good. The highlight Yu Kwen Yick fried chicken (HKD88) is a very American buffalo wing appetizer with tender chicken on the bone served with a rich and tangy blue cheese dipping sauce and thinly sliced celery. The twist is that the heat in the wings comes from local Yu Kwen Yick chili sauce, a family owned brand based for three generations in nearby Sai Ying Pun. In a similar mix of local and international flavors, the latkes (HKD78) at Alvy’s combine traditional Jewish style potato pancakes sitting on a bed of sour cream with flecks of diced char siu and geung yeong for a combination that, while not kosher, is very tasty.
As a native of Baltimore, I was also happy with Alvy’s fries (HKD58). These crispy French fries were generously covered in Old Bay Seasoning, the classic spice mix for steamed blue crabs created in Baltimore in 1939 by a German Jewish refugee. Also good but somewhat redundant was the pizza nudo (HKD54), basically unadulterated pizza dough made from the same sourdough as that used in the pizzas accompanied only by tomato and pesto sauces. I would just order the pizza and skip this naked dough.
In the end, I am left to wonder whether after the #metoo movement a restaurant would still have decided to name itself after a character in a Woody Allen movie or name its oven after a pejorative for a strong woman. Nonetheless, with a historic dearth of good pizza in Hong Kong, Alvy’s is certainly a welcome addition to the dining scene. It has done a very good job of taking this traditional staple and spicing it up with some local flair.
About the Hungry Lawyer: Marc Rubinstein, born in Baltimore, USA, has been in Asia for more than 20 years, with 15 of those in Hong Kong. He has split his career between banks and law firms, and is currently the general counsel of an Asia-based real estate and alternative energy investor. Marc is a co-founder and co-chair of the Hong Kong Gay & Lesbian Attorneys Network. In addition to being a hungry lawyer, he has run three marathons, eight half-marathons, completed the Hong Kong Oxfam Trailwalker and won the U.S. National Debate Tournament way back in 1991.
Other reviews by Coconuts’ Hungry Lawyer
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