Concealed, as so many L.A. gems are, in our ubiquitous strip malls, Mateo's Ice Cream & Fruit Bars is a small, stunningly colored ice cream shop that dishes out paletas, jugos and house-made gelados in a stunning array of flavors. Try tamarind, guanabana or smoky leche quemada (burnt milk), which tastes like the burnt caramel top on crème brûlée, if it had been cooked over a campfire. Mamey, a creamy Mexican fruit with a subtle flavor halfway between peach and pumpkin, is blended into an even creamier pink ice cream with floral hints. Playing with endless flavor pairings is a fun game: Coconut works with just about anything, while tart passion fruit is perfect for cutting through the sweetness. Even the sorbets are so dense and creamy, it's easy to forget they don't contain dairy. The stunner is the coffee-and–chocolate ice cream, easily one of the best in the city. This is no ersatz frappuccino, struggling to mask its coffee flavor with pounds of sugar. Riddled with chocolate shavings, it's designed to ensure that you never forget its pure coffee essence, a strong and slightly bitter calling card amid all the sweet. 4929 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City. (310) 313-7625.

—Elina Shatkin

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