(from Takadanobaba station Waseda Exit, go left and walk up the road for about 4 minutes, past about a dozen other ramen shops)
You walk into Botan and are hit with the smell. I've heard about some people hating Hakata style ramen because of the stinky smell, but I had never really experienced this. That is... until Botan.
"Like a good swiss cheese," is how a friend described it. Yes, thats perfect. It was like the swiss cheese I bought from a cheese vendor on the border of France and Switzerland in the city of Chamonix back in 2002. This cheese had been aged in a cave and was covered with a layer of wax and dirt. Cut into it and there you go. Stinky. The good kind. That's what you smell when you walk in the door.
There you have it, the wonderful creation that is Hakata ramen. I can't say I've had bad Hakata ramen yet. I think Ichiran tastes a little more refined, but the whole eating in silence in a one person cubicle thing isn't worth it. Maybe Ippudo could take top marks, but I'd say that is more Hakata Nouveau style. A drizzle of garlic spice oil isn't an option at most places.
One bonus of this shop is that you get a coupon for a free serving of noodles the next time you come in. Bonus!