I have tried Firefox and Chrome and on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, and there seems to be a sizeable chunk of Unicode characters that I cannot render.
What is the best course of action to diagnose the root cause and fix the missing characters?
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In order to see the missing characters, you need to install a font which contains them.
I've found that Symbola contains the best range of characters.
.ttffonts - if you double click on then, you should see a font preview, click the "Install" button.
With the latest version (8.0.0) I'm able to see the dog symbol 🐕 and the slice of pizza symbol 🍕.
I tried to view the characters on my computer (See signs and symbols). Enter the Unicode-code in the search-window. It looks that the symbols mentioned are not rendered yet (These characters are in the Supplementary Multilingual Plane). See also http://www.ltg.ed.ac.uk/~richard/unicode-sample-3-2.html.