The flavors at this shop come in vibrant candyish hues, sporting names that sound like particularly festive planets in the Star Wars universe. Rajbhog? Chikoo? A working knowledge of Hindi would help, but it's hard to go wrong at Saffron Spot, where vanilla and chocolate play second fiddle to Indian flavors like guava, jackfruit, Masala Tea and Kulfi Kreme. 18744 Pioneer Blvd., Artesia. (562) 809-4554.9. Jerry's Soda Shoppe:
Let's not equivocate: Jerry's Soda Shoppe serves the best ice cream soda in all of Los Angeles, if not the world. It begins with a frosty glass mug dipped in chocolate sauce. It's then filled with Lappert's vanilla ice cream, fizzy soda water and more chocolate syrup. Crowned with whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles and a maraschino cherry, it's served with a sidecar of soda water and arrives on a plate, to catch the inevitable overflow as you dig in for the first bite. (Pro Tip: Take several long, hard pulls off the straw before trying to extract the spoon.) As you work your way through this behemoth -- even the small size is a bellyfull -- you can break off stalactites of hardened chocolate or scrape away at the mug like Rodin carving his Thinker. This brilliant aberration is located in the De Soto Pharmacy stocked with a Cronenbergian array of medical devices. 20914 Roscoe Blvd., Canoga Park. (818) 341-9515.8. Scoops/Scoops Westside:
Does Scoops Westside sell ice cream or gelato? It's dense and fluffy like gelato, but it has a texture more like ice cream. We think of it as the bastard love child of the two, not that it matters. People don't come here to parse ice cream texture, they come for the latest creations of Scoops' mad genius, founder Tai Kim. His penchant for experimental flavors includes jasmine chocolate, blueberry tea (which actually tastes of blueberries and tea), various bacon combinations and dairy-free Oreo cookie ice cream that's blessedly creamy. We can't get enough of Brown Bread (at the original location) and its even more concentrated version, Brown Brown Bread (at the Westside location), a vanilla-based ice cream that's sweeter, more caramely and more aggressively dosed with Grape Nuts. The healthy part of a balanced breakfast. 712 N. Heliotrope Drive. L.A. (323) 906-2649; 3400 Overland Ave. L.A. (323) 405-7055.7. Pazzo Gelato:
It's all about the chocolate gelato at Pazzo. This small shop near Sunset Junction (with a newer location in Echo Park) makes incredible, creamy gelato that's densely flavored and soft as silk. We're suckers for all of Pazzo's chocolate varietals, whether it's plain, dark and made with copious amounts of Valrhona, spiked with cayenne or mellowed with toasted almonds. The flavors range from primal and earthy (like a chevre and sour cherry so intense it might have come directly from the dam's teat), to note-perfect classics (like mango, pistachio and banana) to surprising, and surprisingly good, mash-ups like pineapple celery sorbet. 3827 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A. (323) 662-1410.6. Mateo's Ice Cream & Fruit Bars:
This small, stunningly colored ice cream shop dishes out a fantastic selection of gelados, paletas and jugos in flavors not often found in these here parts: smoky leche quemada (burnt milk), passion fruit, tamarind, gaunabana and more. Mamey, a creamy Mexican fruit with a subtle flavor that's halfway between peach and pumpkin, turns into an even creamier pink ice cream with a floral hint. The stunner is the coffee and chocolate ice cream, easily one of the best in the city. This is no frou-frou frozen frappuccino. Strong, slightly bitter and riddled with nibs of chocolate, it seems designed to ensure you never forget its coffee essence. 4929 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City. (310) 313-7625.5. Gelato Bar:
Owned by Gail Silverton (sister of Mozza pizza queen Nancy), Gelato Bar's flavors are less intense and the consistency of their gelato more dense than at Grom, but the flavor combinations are varied and intriguing, like the Veneziana, vanilla gelato ribboned with chocolate and sprinkled with candied orange peel, or the milky Lattemou. The Los Feliz shop, which also makes very good coffee, has about two dozen offerings at any given time, but their full repertoire stretches to nearly 90 flavors. The chocolate is dark and lovely, while the Yogurt Greco balances the tartness of yogurt and the sweetness of honey in irresistible harmony. The knockout punch is the exceptional pear sorbet, a flavor we've seen almost nowhere else. Here, it's light and flowery, exploiting every last drop of pear essence. 1936 N. Hillhurst Ave., L.A. (323) 668-0606; 4342 1/2 Tujunga Ave., Studio City. (818) 487-1717.