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Flan, like tiramisu, is one of the constants on the modern dessert menu. Usually it's a bland option--turgid milk in a thin pseudo-caramelized syrup, faintly sweet, food suitable for convalescents. At its rare best, it's a transcendent jelling of cream into a texture as luxurious as the taste of caviar. But at Caliente, flan has mutated into a thoroughly untraditional concoction called "blacko y blanco". We sneered when it was served, a gimmicky-looking upended mold of brown and pale yellow, like a DQ dessert. But a serious "flan-oisseur" had recommended it, and he really knows his custard. The milk-chocolatey, faintly fudgey-textured base lent substance to the gentler vanilla layer, the silky syrup bound the two together, and altogether, this flan is a dessert dream. Of course, we like dip cones, too.

--Mary Brown Malouf

Caliente, 6881 Greenville Ave. (at Park), 369-8600

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