Taking its name from the golf term, Birdie Club is scoring under par

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Yusuke (right), Hajime (left)

Yusuke Nakajima moved to Saigon from Japan two years ago in search of business opportunities in Vietnam’s fast growing economy. A bit of homesickness landed him at The First Bar, a Japanese owned bar and restaurant in District 1, where he quickly became a regular there and became friends with the owner Hajime Tadano. The two shared common interests in business and especially for the love of golf, however, golf courses were usually located long drives outside the city and the local driving range did not offer the same amenities like in Japan. “There was only a small table there, for maybe one or two beers,” says Yusuke of his idea to create a space for golfers where they could gather and work on their skills together. “It’s very easy for golfers to bond. They are all working their swing and their put. They all have ideas about how to improve.”

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Together, Yusuke and Hajime opened Birdie Club (7A Le Cong Kieu, D1), an indoor virtual reality golf simulator, bar and restaurant. The former, who has been playing golf for eight years, took the lead on golf related elements including swing simulators and two putting areas while Hajime designed a menu reminiscent of a Japanese country club. Eight months after opening, the restaurant has 70 members, runs tournaments, and rents out the simulator rooms every day.

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Birdie has five floors, each offering difference experiences. The first floor bar is warm and cozy while the second floor is a full dining area with a projector screen, which is available for private parties. The third floor houses the popular golf training room called “the lesson room.” The Foresight Sports golf simulator system makes it possible for golfers to practice their swing, record it and analyze the data all inside the lesson room. And taking it from virtual into reality, Birdie also offers training sessions with PGA Teaching Professional Matt Burley. Other rooms include a putting room with Japanese turf and the fourth floor has a swing analysis room, plus more putting practice on the roof. Eighty percent of their customers and 90 percent of their members (members of Birdie Club enjoy a variety of perks; annual fee of VND5.4 million or a monthly fee of VND450,000) are Japanese.

Whisky a Go Go

And, of course, a sports bar wouldn’t be complete with the requisite food and drinks to fed its hungry players. Among the most popular dishes on their menu are the Gyutan Stew (Japanese beef tongue stew) and the Katsu Sando (Japanese pork cutlet sandwich). The Gyutan Stew is tender and flavorful with a variety of hearty vegetables. While Japanese beef tongue, known as “gyutan,” isn’t considered to be a traditional ingredient in Japanese cuisine, it has found well-deserved notoriety in the Sendai region of Tohoku as a meibutsu, or famous local product. The Katsu Sando is rich and filling with perfectly breaded pork and soft bread. Tonkatsu is a Japanese dish of a pork cutlet that has been coated in flaky panko breadcrumbs then deep-fried. Similar to a German schnitzel, tonkatsu was first served in Japan around the turn of the 20th century when Japanese restaurants began to offer more western style food, known as “yoshoku.” Over time, tonkatsu has become one of Japan’s most commonly eaten dishes. Pasta and curry dishes are also popular. The phenomenal lunch salad bar is the standout topic of online reviews. A lunch set includes the salad bar, main course and a delicious hand drip coffee. The bar boasts a large selection of whiskies including hard-to-find Japanese brands. Over the past few months, Birdie has seen an increase in local Vietnamese patrons largely due to word of mouth.

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Birdie Club also runs golf tournaments. The Birdie Cup (formally the First Cup) has run for the last two years. The previous tournament had 44 golfers and the next one, on July 1st, already has 64 golfers registered. To register, go to their Facebook page and join the club.

Images by Vy Lam